Tuesday, March 27, 2018

How Russia knows so much about America's politics

A version in this was revised, updated, and condensed in a later posting...Creepy ways bad actors use the internet to influence voters.......
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.

In addition to the column, I have a blog on which I post both the column and a much wordier draft/post from which I often edit,  update and use when I condense the column to approximately 550 words to be published in the Sky Hi News.

The blog site I use is a google based one which gives the me sources of my “fans” (site visitors) and the country from which the “fan” comes.    It also tells me what is the referring URL. Almost all of my “fans” come to the blog via Facebook postings. I have been blogging for several years and the top sources come from the United States, followed by Russia and the Ukraine and in the past month the Russian origination of those visiting my pages have nearly surpassed my US “fans”. Added to  the Ukraine fans (which could be either Western leaning East Ukraine Russian controlled West Ukraine) the Russian/Ukraine totals were nearly double the US page viewers. That is a trend I have noticed incrasing since 2016 and in the past couple of years, not an unusual happening. Most URL referrals are from Facebook postings. In short: my Facebook postings are being followed by Russians and Ukraine intelligence services. I do not have many Facebook friends with Russian names and  identified origins.

No one can mistake my opinions of not  being Russian friendly; I probably fall more into the hard line category.  However, I also write more about domestic politics and I have a policy on the blog also listing all sources of media or pollsters that I draw upon.  That, too, mght be of interest to anyone who would like to know what is influencing my thoughts.

If that kind of interest is shown in what I from a swing state, rural/resort small county, is thinking , it certainly is not because of the opinions I am expressing influences  so many votes. It is because they are interested in what someone like me with my background who lives in this kind of state thinks. I am a demographic member of the Silent Generation on the cusp with the Viet Nam protest era, but not necessarily one that always conforms to my age group.  My “hard line” on Russia is based on my experience of having married an East European refugee in the early 1960s and I spent a year in Berlin in studying there 12 years after the end of World War II shortly before the Soviets erected the Berlin Wall. I know dictatorships first hand and it has made me even more dedicated to protecting our American form of government.  My education as a political science major, combined with first hand experience with the alternatives, have made me even alarmed and more critical of the Trump administration and his autocratic tendencies than those less attuned.

I am writing this as a warning to those posting political comments on the Facebook.  You are being watched, not just by Cambridge Analytica but also by others. They may be targeting you
with fake news or any other view shaping postings.  The answer until Facebook starts naming the sources of advertsing and news postings on Facebook , know that whatever you write or post on Facebook is not kept private and could figure into other couintries’  intelligence services. It could also result in what kind of news you get posted on Facebook and how it is slanted.

Footnote: 3/26/18

Because of the misuse of Facebook by Russian trolls, scanners, and bots , I will begin only sharing with Facebook friends and not with the public. I will also no longer post on G+.  If you want to continue to receive my Muftic Forum and political postings, make sure you are listed as my Friends. Friend me. As an alternative, you can also be asked to be put on my muftic forum email distribution and do that by requesting it at feliciamuftic@yahoo.com .These are mostly columns and blog postings , but I am not forwarding other information or what I am sharing on Facebook.  If you want to receive my blog postings, go to www.mufticforumblog.blogspot.com and sign up. I just want to know who is receiving my postings and Facebook messages. You do not have to agree with me to be Friended or to have access to  the blog. Out of country USA "friends" are welcome, too. Unforutnately, other services from our allied nations may also be affected by my new policy.
I just want to know who is listening. I do occasionally use Twitter to alert those who receive my tweets that there is a new posting and a link but that is hit or miss.

What prompted this is a recent dramatic uptick in Russian and Ukranian visitors to the blog that have the source as Facebook and link to the blog that way. I do not know who they are. I do not mind to have them friend me. I just want to know who they are and how many. Also, there are many dropping Facebook for personal information security reasons. I am not one of those. My policy has always been if I do not want my personal information shared with the public, I do not post it on Facebook. I do want my political views and postings shared.

If this policy of no longer sharing with the public, but only with friends  reduces the number of my Russian and Ukrainian “fans”, I will know for sure that Facebook is how they tap into my thoughts. It is also possible that some of my friends are from those countries and share with  their compatriots. It will be interesting to see how this “experiment” changes the relative sources of my “fans”.

Last 30 days of blog page visitors:
Russia comprised 31% of blog visitors, mostly via Facebook links
United States, 30%

Ukraine, 25%



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

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