I’m waiting for a call back from Mike Sechrist. Bad cell service where he’s walking. We only spoke for a few seconds, but he answered the question I called with.
“Do TV stations and others advertising on the Internet do it with the sophistication of the Russians?”
Mike’s the one to ask. He was the news director who hired me at WTNH in 1984. He went on to be a TV station general manager and now runs an Internet oriented agency.
“No,” he said. That was my guess.
The Russian’s were very sophisticated in their 2016 buys–much more than normal for a businesses. Their goal was to cheapen democracy. Getting Donald Trump elected was an unexpected bonus.
The cost was far more than the Facebook and Twitter ad buys imply. The ads Russian content farms placed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were intricately targeted. It’s not like TV where we’re all seeing the same Chevy spot. There were thousands of different ads nearly all aimed at getting people angrier.
They wanted us to fight. They wanted us to scream. They wanted us to distrust each other and our electoral process. Their efforts were successful. We were gamed.
Here’s an example from Texas.
Last year, two Russian Facebook pages organized dueling rallies in front of the Islamic Da’wah Center of Houston, according to information released by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.
Heart of Texas, a Russian-controlled Facebook group that promoted Texas secession, leaned into an image of the state as a land of guns and barbecue and amassed hundreds of thousands of followers. One of their ads on Facebook announced a noon rally on May 21, 2016 to “Stop Islamification of Texas.”
A separate Russian-sponsored group, United Muslims of America, advertised a “Save Islamic Knowledge” rally for the same place and time. – TexasTribune.com
What’s obvious today is the artificial intelligence systems running the ad programs for these Internet behemoths aren’t sophisticated enough to see these attacks. Did they even care?
Of course the problem goes beyond the Russian’s. Last week I noticed a Facebook friend had posted a meme about pensions and the military — very political and totally based on made up numbers.
I told her it was wrong, which she acknowledged, but she didn’t seem to care. And the meme is probably still there on her wall inciting anger in like minded others.
We need to return to a truth based society.