Russian-linked Accounts Bought $270,000 of Twitter Ads During Election 

First, it was all about Facebook and how the Russians used it, but wait, Twitter was part of this propaganda master plan as well. Perhaps the sworn enemies of capitalism know how our system works better than we do?  Maybe we really do like “fake news” over the real thing after all, and that’s the scary part.  Or we just have an insatiable appetite for any news that’s instantaneous and never really fact-checked.  We see it on our mobile devices and we believe.  No time to analyze or scrutinize!  And maybe the saddest part is that we like it that way.  Here’s the latest.

Twitter has released a statement explaining how accounts affiliated with Russia Today paid to promote news stories, which may have been attempts to influence the election.

The company has turned details over to Congress.

Senator Mark Warner, who is leading inquiries into Russian election interference, said he was “deeply disappointed” with Twitter’s presentation.

Twitter sold more than $270,000 of ads to Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 election, the company said Thursday, further detailing the extent of potential foreign influence that’s spurred Senate investigations and calls for greater regulation.

Twitter accounts affiliated with Russia Today, an outlet with “strong links” to the Russian government,” promoted more than 1,800 tweets that “definitely or potentially targeted the U.S. market,” the company said in a statement.

Twitter also said that it found Twitter accounts for 22 of the 450 Russia-linked accounts that Facebook said had bought ads on Facebook during the election. It also found 179 more accounts linked to those 22. Twitter has suspended all those accounts.

Thursday Twitter turned over “a round-up of ads” from Russia-linked accounts targeted to the U.S. market, the statement said.

“We are concerned about violations of our Terms of Service and U.S. law with respect to interference in the exercise of voting rights,” the statement said. “During the 2016 election, we removed Tweets that were attempting to suppress or otherwise interfere with the exercise of voting rights, including the right to have a vote counted, by circulating intentionally misleading information.”

Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia who has been helping to lead inquiries into how Russia tried to influence the election via American social media, was not impressed with Twitter’s presentation.

He said the Twitter briefing was mostly derivative of a presentation earlier this month given by Facebook and lacked thoroughness. “Their response was, frankly, inadequate on almost every level,” Warner told reporters.

Ray Myers

More on Facebook and Russia

Here is some more information on the investigation into Russian influence on the U.S. presidential election last year.  As posted on Monday, Facebook has finally come to the realization (admission) that it had been duped, but had also been rewarded handsomely by the fake news vendors.

“Facebook has now disclosed that fake accounts and pages had paid the social media giant over $100,000 during the 2016 presidential election cycle. These accounts purchased 3,000 ads, largely for the purpose of spreading false information about Hillary Clinton. The ad purchasers were, as expected, Russian. Now Robert Mueller has reportedly obtained a search warrant for records of the fake accounts that Facebook claims to have shut down earlier this month.

Wall Street Journal was the first to report on this issue, “Facebook Inc. has handed over to special counsel Robert Mueller detailed records about the Russian ad purchases on its platform that go beyond what the company shared with Congress last week, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, says reports that special counsel Robert Mueller got a search warrant for Facebook content could be “the biggest news” related to since the raid on Paul Manafort’s home. Knowing now that not only did Facebook comply with Mueller’s warrant, but that the company turned over more detailed information than that which they turned over to Congress is excellent news.

There are still obstinate deniers that Russia interfered with the 2016 president election, all of the intelligence to the contrary. Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Sean Spicer have done everything they can to frame this investigation as equal parts conspiracy theory fodder and media bullying. The more information Russia can get that directly supports Russian interference, whether through making deals or disseminating false information propaganda-style.

There are some who simply will not be convinced. After all, an astonishing number of Republicans still believe former president Obama was not born in the United States.”

Ray Myers

Trump Attacks NFL and Russians Hack Facebook

What a week!  Trump raises the stakes on how patriotic NFL football fans should be, i.e., let’s all stand for the national anthem. You really don’t have to stand, as explained in my commentary yesterday.  And then we find out that Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook had been hacked by the Russians last year and conceivably played an dominant role in insuring Trump’s presidential victory.  I think Maureen Dowd’s column in yesterday’s NY Times explains all this much better than I ever could, please see below “Will Zuck ‘Like’ This Column?”

Ray Myers

Maureen Dowd, New York Times, 9/24/17
WASHINGTON — The idea of Mark Zuckerberg running for president was always sort of scary.  But now it’s really scary, given what we’ve discovered about the power of his little invention to warp democracy.

All these years, the 33-year-old founder of Facebook has been dismissive of the idea that social media and A.I. could be used for global domination — or even that they should be regulated.

Days after Donald Trump pulled out his disorienting win, Zuckerberg told a tech conference that the contention that fake news had influenced the election was “a pretty crazy idea,” showing a “profound lack of empathy” toward Trump voters.

But all the while, the company was piling up the rubles and turning a blind eye as the Kremlin’s cyber hit men weaponized anti-Hillary bots on Facebook to sway the U.S. election. Russian agents also used Facebook and Twitter trolls, less successfully, to try to upend the French election.

Finally on Thursday, speaking on Facebook Live, Zuckerberg said he would give Congress more than 3,000 ads linked to Russia. As one Facebooker posted: “Why did it take EIGHT MONTHS to get here?”

Hillary is right that this $500 billion company has a lot to answer for in allowing the baby-photo-sharing site to be turned into what, with Twitter, The Times’s Scott Shane called “engines of deception and propaganda.”

Robert Mueller’s team, as well as House and Senate investigators, are hotly pursuing the trail of Russian fake news. On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security told 21 states, including Wisconsin and Ohio, that Russian agents had tried to hack their elections systems during the campaign.

As Vanity Fair pointed out, Mueller’s focus on social media during the campaign could spell trouble for Jared Kushner, who once bragged that he had called his Silicon Valley friends to get a tutorial in Facebook microtargeting and brought in Cambridge Analytica — Robert Mercer is a big investor — to help build a $400 million operation for his father-in-law’s campaign.

Some lawmakers suspect that the Russians had help in figuring out which women and blacks to target in precincts in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Senator Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee looking into Russia’s intervention in 2016, has a suspect in mind. “Paul Manafort made an awful lot of money coming up with a game plan for how Russian interests could be pushed in Western countries and Western elections,” Heinrich told Vanity Fair.

ProPublica broke the news that, until it asked about it recently, Facebook had “enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of ‘Jew hater,’ ‘How to burn jews,’ or, ‘History of “why jews ruin the world.”’”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s C.O.O., apologized for this on Wednesday and promised to fix the ad-buying tools, noting, “We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way — and that is on us.”

The Times’s Kevin Roose called this Facebook’s “Frankenstein moment,” like when Mary Shelley’s scientist, Victor Frankenstein, says, “I had been the author of unalterable evils, and I lived in daily fear lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness.”

Roose noted that in addition to the Russian chicanery, “In Myanmar, activists are accusing Facebook of censoring Rohingya Muslims, who are under attack from the country’s military. In Africa, the social network faces accusations that it helped human traffickers extort victims’ families by leaving up abusive videos.”

The Sandberg admission was also game, set and match for Elon Musk, who has been sounding the alarm for years about the danger of Silicon Valley’s creations and A.I. mind children getting out of control and hurting humanity. His pleas for safeguards and regulations have been mocked as “hysterical” and “pretty irresponsible” by Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg, whose project last year was building a Jarvis-style A.I. butler for his home, likes to paint himself as an optimist and Musk as a doomsday prophet. But Sandberg’s comment shows that Musk is right: The digerati at Facebook and Google are either being naïve or cynical and greedy in thinking that it’s enough just to have a vague code of conduct that says “Don’t be evil,” as Google does.

As Musk told me when he sat for a Vanity Fair piece: “It’s great when the emperor is Marcus Aurelius. It’s not so great when the emperor is Caligula.”

In July, the chief of Tesla and SpaceX told a meeting of governors that they should adopt A.I. legislation before robots start “going down the street killing people.” In August, he tweeted that A.I. going rogue represents “vastly more risk than North Korea.” And in September, he tweeted out a Gizmodo story headlined “Hackers Have Already Started to Weaponize Artificial Intelligence,” reporting that researchers proved that A.I. hackers were better than humans at getting Twitter users to click on malicious links.

(Musk also tweeted that it was a cautionary tale when Microsoft’s chatbot, Tay, had to be swiftly shut down when Twitter users taught her how to reply with racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic slurs, talking approvingly about Hitler.)

Vladimir Putin has denied digital meddling in the U.S. elections. But he understands the possibilities and threat of A.I. In a recent address, the Russian president told schoolchildren, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” Musk agreed on Twitter that competition for A.I. superiority would be the “most likely cause of WW3.”

On Thursday, touring the Moscow tech firm Yandex, Putin asked the company’s chief how long it would be before superintelligent robots “eat us.”

Zuckerberg scoffs at such apocalyptic talk. His project this year was visiting all 50 states, a trip designed by former Obama strategist David Plouffe, which sparked speculation that he might be the next billionaire to seek the Oval Office.

As Bloomberg Businessweek wrote in a cover story a few days ago, Zuckerberg has hired Plouffe, other senior Obama officials and Hillary’s pollster. He has said he is no longer an atheist and he changed Facebook’s charter to allow him to maintain control in the hypothetical event he runs for office.

Yep. Very scary.

Special Sunday Edition for Americans: You and Your Flag

As a public service and in light of recent comments by our “so-called President,” I would like to post this informative article which may help us all better understand how to respect and not disrespect the American flag.  Knelling or sitting down during the playing of the national anthem is not designated as disrespectful.

“Here Are Some Ways People Disrespect The Flag Daily Based On Flag Code” -° HUFFINGTON POST

09/24/2017 12:56 AM EDT

Taking a knee is not one of them.

President Donald Trump accused athletes on Friday of disrespecting the American flag by silently protesting, but taking a knee isn’t covered in the U.S. Flag Code’s respect section.

On June 14, 1923, or Flag Day, a federal code was put in place that would serve as a guideline for how to handle the American flag. There are several sections in the code about proper national anthem conduct, how to display the flag, and yes, even how to respect the flag.

The code does state that everyone should stand at attention facing the flag during the national anthem, but standing or kneeling isn’t actually covered in the respect portion of the code.

Here are some things that Americans do on a daily basis, however, that are disrespectful:

American Flag Clothing

“The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.”

That means every American flag swimsuit, button-up shirt, and even those famous Old Navy flag shirts, are disrespectful.

The Flag Shouldn’t Be Carried Flat  

“The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.”

Most people know the flag should never touch the ground, but few know that it has to be displayed vertically. Maybe it’s a nod to the lyric that had the flag “gallantly streaming” in the air. Whatever the case, an unfurled flag that sits flat is a disrespect to the flag code.

Drawing On The Flag

“The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.”

This one seems pretty self-explanatory. Most people understand that drawing on the symbol of the country will probably be seen as disrespectful. But freedom of expression is a constitutionally protected right, so artists are still free to make that choice.

Disposable Flag Products 

“It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.”

Sorry to put a damper on probably every Fourth Of July cookout ever, but the paper plate supporting that juicy burger better not have a flag on it.

Flag Advertisements

“The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.”

If a business or company is using a flag in its advertisements, that’s yet another disrespectful gesture. A flag printed on a disposable flyer is probably a double offense.

Flag Uniforms

“No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.”

Sports teams aren’t allowed to put the flag on uniforms. The only way to respectfully wear the American flag is with a patch on the side for service members, firefighters, and police officers.

Perhaps a special “patriotic organization” exception could be made for athletes during certain memorials and holidays, though.

Ray Myers

Melania Speaks Out Against Bullying – Wait, What?

Just two days ago, I commented on the bullying tactics of so-called President Trump.  He has become masterful in using social media to taunt and berate friends and foes alike.  Here is what I wrote:  “Over the weekend, the president of the United States retweeted to his 38 million Twitter followers a video clip doctored to show him driving a golf ball off the tee and between the shoulder blades of Hillary Clinton – ‘Crooked Hillary’ in the tweet – knocking the former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee to the ground. Eighty-four thousand people ‘liked’ this violent takedown of Trump’s former opponent (Milbank, Washington Post, 9/20/17).”

Now the so-called President’s First Lady has launched a crusade against bullying, and in particular, cyber bullying.  The first lady’s speech made no mention of her husband as she urged the world to “ensure that our children’s future is bright.”  So please help me figure this all out.  If you are a man and the so-called President, you can bully and/or cyber bully anyone you want, any time, but now Melania is telling all young boys and girls (around the world?) that they should not follow her husband’s example. She plans to follow up with social media leaders and educators on this topic.

Maybe it’s time for the Trumps to coordinate their “messaging.”  But I doubt if that is ever going to happen.  After all, he is the “Bully-in-Chief.”

Ray Myers

Abuser of Twitter and of Women Too

So I may be digressing from my usual commentary here about how technology’s advances and empowerment have made the internet a powerful tool for free expression, but Trump has also managed to make it a tool of oppression.  For example, “Over the weekend, the president of the United States retweeted to his 38 million Twitter followers a video clip doctored to show him driving a golf ball off the tee and between the shoulder blades of Hillary Clinton – ‘Crooked Hillary’ in the tweet – knocking the former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee to the ground.  Eighty-four thousand people ‘liked’ this violent takedown of Trump’s former opponent.

A woman has been Speaker of the House (and proved substantially more effective than the two men who succeeded her), another came within a whisker of the presidency, and others (Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine) wield the decisive votes on health-care and other legislation.  But recent events make it feel as if we’re in an earlier time, when a woman’s job in politics was simple: sit down and shut up.  This no doubt is the work of a president who, by word and deed, make sexism safe again, giving license to shed ‘political correctness and blame troubles on minorities, immigrants and women (Milbank, Washington Post, 9/20/17).”

Unfortunately, it looks like there will not be a second chance for Hillary, but her recent book sale numbers may portend what the future may bring.  “What Happened” is now the No. 1 best-selling book in America.

Ray Myers

In Putin, We Trust?

I hope that I am not overreacting here, but it seems that the U.S. government has been buying security software from a Russian firm.  So I guess that since we now have that “special relationship” with Putin and his buddies, I should not worry so much about such minor details.  But don’t we have some great American companies who can do this same kind of work.  Maybe those greedy Yanks wanted too many rubles, sorry, dollars.  Well, we have finally put an end to all that and taken some action at the highest levels, or has it really been that effective or timely enough?

“In a binding directive, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke ordered federal civilian agencies to identify Kapersky Lab software on their networks (hmmm, what about the military, and what other federal agencies  are these civilian agencies working for?).  After ninety days, unless otherwise directed, they must remove the software, on the grounds the company has connections to the Russian government and its software poses a security risk.”

Kapersky Labs has been on a federal government list of approved vendors.  They have now been removed.  How did they get there and when did they get there in the first place?

Ray Myers

Tech Devices Will Not Make Us Smarter About Climate Change

Sorry about the late posting today, but we are in the middle of a residential relocation closer to family and grandchildren.  I recommend this type of relocation highly if you are interetested in being closer to wherever those grandchildren may be.  But this post is not about the grandkids, but more about how all American citizens, young and old, should be listening to science and less to political biases about what is happening to our environment.  Here is one environmental scientist’s opinion.

“It occurs to me that all the bloviating politicians who think that scientists don’t know stuff from shoe polish about climate change or land, air and water pollution should throw out all their radios, TVs, smartphones, cars, GPS or radar-guided yachts, and lifesaving medicines.  They can’t work anyway.  These gadgets, gizmos and medicines were all conceived of, or designed by and creates by scientists.”

The climate in which we all live is changing.  We can not change it, but at least we can try to better understand why it is changing and what we can do to better reduce human misery and nature’s destructive forces.

Ray Myers

Trump is the Biggest Winner in the Midst of All this Hurricane Disaster

Well I guess we should all be thankful that the so-called President’s estate in Florida has been spared any catastrophic damage that we know of to date.  But I am sure that if there is any way for him to claim more expensive damages at the expense of the American taxpayer he will be the first in line.  He owes it to himself and to the country?  I don’t think things have always been this way, but then again, we never had a “president” like him before.  Oh, just in case you haven’t heard, our government is running out of money to provide the required Secret Service protection for him and his entire family?  I do have to admit that this guy really knows how to make the “big deals” when it comes to his benefit and that of his family.  Your money was never more well spent, right?

Now I have to connect all this devastation to how improved technological resources could have spared us all this destruction.  But as I noted in my post last week, it is not the technology (scientific data) that has failed us, it is our political leadership that remain “deniers” of the climatic reality that is now destroying many Americans homes and their livelihoods.  Let’s face it, we (and Mr. Trump) must acknowledge these inconvenient truths as I discussed at the end of last week in this blog?  Let’s make America “Save Again.”  And this should be reflected in both our understanding of humans’ impact on “Mother Nature” as well as our general concern for the safety of our citizenry (fewer guns).

I will be back on Wednesday, and am hopeful that all this weather will settle down, and we can get back to more staid political topics, like what is Trump going to do to improve our infrastructure, and build that “Great Wall” in Texas to keep the Mexicans out, etc.  Maybe on the question of the “Wall” he will have to wait until all that water recedes before he can really start? 

Ray Myers

Hurricane Damages Remind Us of Inconvenient Truths

Let’s all take a break from our political wars and take some time to understand that we must do something to save our planet for those we love.  What good is all the technological “wizardry” we have if we can not save the lives and livelihoods of our fellow inhabitants of Mother Earth.  We can do something if we opt to save our globe and not stand by sheepishly as the false idols of unchecked profiteering continue to tell us that we “can make America Great again” and simply ignore our responsibility to be faithful stewards of God’s bounty.

We owe it to ourselves and to those who trust us to preserve these gifts for our future generations.

Ray Myers


Trump Tweets While Houston Floods

I think the title of this short blog is self-explanatory, but let’s talk a little about how some leaders (emperors?) react to natural disasters.  Just like ol’ Nero fiddled away while Rome burned back in 64 AD, our so-called President likes to tweet when disasters like the floods in Houston threaten the lives and livelihoods of American citizens.  What else has he really done about it?

Fortunately, some Americans have begun to fill this void by using social media to help those in harm’s way.  Now I know Melania looks great in stiletto heels 👠, but this is not a fashion show!  It’s a disaster!  The Facebook group “Hurricane Harvey Helping Hands” has multiple examples of homegrown rescuers posting photos of their boats and trucks along with their phone numbers.  Police have also asked boat owners to use social media to help authorities with rescues.  Some Texans have responded in a true expression of their Lone Star State independence: “I am not going to wait.  I am going to get out there and help people myself.”

Now remember that “big, beautiful wall” we are going to build along the Mexican border with the United States.  Luckily, we haven’t been able to get started yet.  With our current “open” border the Mexican government has been able to send supplies and offer other forms of relief assistance to our fellow Americans.  I am sure that they will now be glad to help us build that wall (a la Trump), so that we can keep them out the next time.  WHAT?

Ray Myers

P.S.  Happy Labor Day weekend.  I will be back next Friday, September 8