The Facebook executive contradicts Mueller indictment


A Facebook executive has argued the Russian disinformation campaign uncovered by the Mueller indictment was not intended to sway the US presidential election, after the investigation showed how Russians distributed propaganda on the platform.

Rob Goldman, vice-president of advertising, tweeted that the majority of money the Russians spent on advertising was spent after the election – and that their real motivation was to divide the American people.

“The main goal of the Russian propaganda and misinformation effort is to divide America by using our institutions, like free speech and social media, against us. It has stoked fear and hatred among Americans. It is working incredibly well. We are quite divided as a nation,” he tweeted.

President Trump retweeted two of Mr Goldman’s tweets, accusing the “fake news media” of ignoring the fact that most of the money was spent after the election. The President also cited the fact that the indictment said the disinformation campaigns began in 2014, before he announced his candidacy.

Mr Goldman also warned the Russian campaign was “ongoing”. “Just last week saw news that Russian spies attempted to sell a fake video of Trump with a hooker to the NSA. US officials cut off the deal because they were wary of being entangled in a Russian plot to create discord,” he tweeted.

The Mueller indictment, published on Friday, revealed a sophisticated social media campaign run by the internet Research Agency, a so-called troll farm that employed more than 80 people to target the US population using sites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The defendants created fake US accounts on all these services and bought adverts using PayPal with false identities.

Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram were mentioned far more often in the indictment than any other site. The indictment claims the defendants set up Facebook pages supporting the campaigns of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and focused on divisive social issues such as Black Lives Matter and allegations of voter fraud.

Facebook said on Friday it had co-operated closely with the investigation. Joel Kaplan, vice-president of global policy, said the indictment confirmed Facebook’s announcement in September 2017 that foreign actors “conducted a co-ordinated and sustained effort to attack our democracy”.

“We’re grateful the US government is taking this aggressive action against those who abused our service and exploited the openness of our democratic process,” he said.

Mr Kaplan said Facebook still has more work to do. The social network has already announced plans to double the number of people working on security and moderation to 20,000 people this year and introduce more transparency around advertising purchases, including allowing users to search to see if they were shown the Russian ads. It also said it was working closely with the FBI.

“We’re particularly encouraged by the FBI’s creation of a task force dedicated to addressing election interference, and we are actively working with them,” he said.