In the text released by Special Counsel Robert Mueller of the indictment of the thirteen Russians who conducted active measures in the 2016 elections lay the kernal of a solution to a mystery that has been bugging me. The use of Facebook by the British firm Cambridge Analytics is also illuminating. Both shed insights into how Facebook postings are used by active measure initiative and campaign strategists and spies to target their bots, blogs, advertising, and comments to achieve their goals of increasing political divisions or to support their preferred candidates in America.
From the indictment of 13 Russians:
6. Defendant ORGANIZATION had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Defendants posted derogatory information about a number of candidates, and by early to mid-2016, Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign”) and disparaging Hillary Clinton. Defendants made various expenditures to carry out those activities, including buying political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities. Defendants also staged political rallies inside the United States, and while posing as U.S. grassroots entities and U.S. persons, and without revealing their Russian identities and ORGANIZATION affiliation, solicited and compensated real U.S. persons to promote or disparage candidates. Some Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities. 7. In order to carry out their activities to interfere in U.S. political and electoral processes
28. The conspiracy had as its object impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful governmental functions of the United States by dishonest means in order to enable the Defendants to interfere with U.S. political and electoral processes, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Manner and Means of the Conspiracy Intelligence-Gathering to Inform U.S. Operations 29. Starting at least in or around 2014, Defendants and their co-conspirators began to track and study groups on U.S. social media sites dedicated to U.S. politics and social issues. In order to gauge the performance of various groups on social media sites, the ORGANIZATION tracked certain metrics like the group’s size, the frequency of content placed by the group, and the level of audience engagement with that content, such as the average number of comments or responses to a post. 30. Defendants and their co-conspirators also traveled, and attempted to travel, to the United States under false pretenses in order to collect intelligence for their interference operations