Earlier this week, in “‘Red Hot’ Mueller ‘Zeroing In’ On Russia’s Use Of Facebook, Twitter,” we drew your attention to a Bloomberg piece that suggested the Special Counsel is taking a hard look at how the Kremlin leveraged social media to sway the 2016 election.
The Bloomberg revelations came just a day after new details emerged regarding the connection between a highly dubious story pushed by Breitbart, Alex Jones, and other Right-wing media outlets, and an effort by a Russia-linked Facebook account to capitalize on the xenophobia that story catalyzed by organizing anti-immigrant rallies.
All of this comes amid heightened scrutiny on the role played by Kremlin-sponsored social media ad campaigns designed to amplify misleading and in some cases manifestly false narratives as part of a broader effort to influence the U.S. electorate.
Last week, Facebook said it had discovered some 500 “inauthentic” accounts with ties to Moscow. Those accounts bought $100,000 worth of ads over two years. Between those and another $50,000 worth of ad buys linked to Russian accounts, it looks like the Kremlin indirectly bought more than 5,000 ads on Facebook.
Heres what we said about the likely progression of the investigation:
… the silver lining here is that it won’t be long before Mueller and others start to connect the dots and pin down exactly which sites are participating in this effort – where “participating” means producing the propaganda that gets blasted out.
Sure enough, just moments ago Wall Street Journal reported that “Facebook has handed over to Robert Mueller detailed records about the Russian ad purchases on its platform that go beyond what it shared with Congress last week.”
Based on Facebook’s policy, it would appear that Mueller had a search warrant. Here’s the Journal:
The information Facebook shared with Mr. Mueller included copies of the ads and details about the accounts that bought them and the targeting criteria they used, the people familiar with the matter said. Facebook policy dictates that it would only turn over “the stored contents of any account,” including messages and location information, in response to a search warrant, some of them said.
A search warrant from Mr. Mueller would mean the special counsel now has a powerful tool in his arsenal to probe the details of how social media was used as part of a campaign of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Facebook hasn’t shared the same information with Congress.
It’s likely that Facebook officials will soon be compelled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee and while Congress could subpoena documents and effectively force people to appear on Capitol Hill, the Journal notes that “a search warrant is a more powerful tool that would compel Facebook to disclose more detailed information about various accounts, such as messages, photos, videos, timeline posts, and location information.”
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if we were someone who was (or, perhaps more appropriately “is”) involved in the creation and dissemination of misinformation on behalf of emissaries from the Eastern bloc that might still think the USSR is a thing, we’d be getting pretty nervous about this.
As for Trump, well, it doesn’t look like efforts to intimidate “Bobby Three Sticks” have been very effective.