Ok, so how many times have we said it? How many times have we said that anyone who tells you that Russia’s Facebook activities couldn’t have possibly swayed the election is either i) lying to you, or ii) doesn’t understand how social media works?
Let us save you some thinking: we’ve said it a lot. More times than we care to remember.
Here’s an excerpt from a previous post that pretty much sums it up:
Ok, we’re just going to come right out and say this: if you don’t think it is at least possible that Russia’s activity on Facebook had an impact on the election, then you don’t understand much about social media.
What’s particularly absurd about the folks who contend that $100,000 spent on Facebook wouldn’t have had any effect, is that many of the outlets who argue that rely on social media sharing to generate tens if not hundreds of millions of clicks a month. So they know full well how powerful Facebook is in terms of disseminating misleading information – it’s how those sites make a living.
Earlier this month, Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s Vice President of Policy and Communications, released some of the facts surrounding what information the company turned over to Congress.
As it turns out, some 10 million people in the U.S. saw at least one of the Russia-linked ads. 44% of those views were before the election, 56% after the election was over (so at least Trump’s defenders have that latter stat going for them).
Well on Monday evening we learn something new. Namely this, via NBC:
An estimated 126 million Americans, roughly one-third of the nation’s population, received Russian-backed content on Facebook during the 2016 campaign, according to prepared testimony the company submitted Monday to the Senate Judiciary Committee and obtained by NBC News.
Underscoring how widely content on the social media platform can spread, Facebook says in the testimony that while some 29 million Americans directly received material from 80,000 posts by 120 fake Russian-backed pages in their own news feeds, those posts were “shared, liked and followed by people on Facebook, and, as a result, three times more people may have been exposed to a story that originated from the Russian operation.”
Imagine that, right? Facebook is a platform designed to amplify a message and as it turns out, their platform is pretty fucking good at doing just that which makes all kinds of sense because as we’ve been pounding the table on for about six months, that’s what social media is designed to do.
And here’s the kicker: these new numbers apparently don’t even include the ads.
Worse, Facebook now admits that “the shared content which reached 126 million Americans was likely hard, if not impossible, for users of the social media platform to identify as originating from Russia.”
Facebook’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, does note in the same prepared remarks that this makes up only a small percentage of the total content served in users’ news feeds – specifically, about 1 out of every 23,000 pieces of content.
But that’s hardly the point. And from what I can tell by reading the NBC story, Stretch is fully aware of that.
After all, it’s not like anyone is arguing that the majority of the content on Facebook originates from evil Russians. That would be absurd simply by virtue of the sheer amount of content that gets passed around on Facebook. There aren’t enough Russians on the planet Earth to make Facebook all about Russia.
Rather, the point is simply that one-third of the U.S. population was shown Russian-backed content without having any way of knowing who created it.
So now lets see how the alt-Right blogosphere tries to explain away that rather inconvenient statistic.