Just the thought of the Russians throwing a monkey wrench into America’s presidential election is enough for some people to believe nothing is sacred anymore. And as a matter of fact, nothing is sacred anymore. Trying to influence presidential elections is not new. The United States has been meddling in elections in other countries for years. A good example is the 1953 ousting of an Iranian Prime Minister or the 1961 removal and assassination of a Congolese leader. The U.S. is responsible for the ouster of socialist Salvador Allende in Chile, and the list goes on and on. Those incidents of meddling were in the name of winning the Cold War.
The United States is famous all over the world for making sure elections in other countries go their way. Russia is always the bad guy, and the U.S. is just acting like a democratic savior, when American operatives tamper with elections, according to some U.S. underground officials. In other words, the United States can tamper, but other countries can’t tamper with American elections. But the Russians broke that cycle in 2016.
Yes. The Russians got payback in 2016. And thanks to Facebook and Twitter meddling in the 2016 campaign was as easy as clicking a mouse. The Oxford Internet Institute studies how governments use social media to influence elections and manipulate public opinion. Investigators now know the Russians bought 3,000 Facebook ads, and a Russian government-funded news outlet spent more than $270,000 on more than 1,800 promotional tweets. The Russians set up fake online accounts, and they became U.S. voters. And U.S. officials know the Russians were able to push propaganda online using Facebook and Twitter algorithms. The Russians were smart. The ads ran in swing states, so they did the most damage to the Clinton campaign.
Facebook and Twitter analysts and executives were aware of the meddling, but it took an investigation and a lot of name calling to bring that information to the surface. In the end, Russia didn’t do anything that the U.S. wouldn’t do. In a global economy, the strong countries win. Winning is the culmination of information gathering, mudslinging, and tampering. If countries have access to the Internet, they can change public opinion. And they do it every day. The lesson in election tampering is, no country is safe when it comes to changing public opinion. Social media is a platform for the bad guys as well as the good guys. Companies like Twitter and Facebook take money from the good and the bad guys because that’s what capitalistic companies do.