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This "Russian Influence" Campaign Is Just A Click-Bait Scheme

By Moon Of Alabama

October 03, 2017 "Information Clearing House" - Congress is investigating 3,000 suspicious ads which were run on Facebook. These were claimed to have been bought by "Russia" to influence the U.S. presidential election in favor of Trump.

It now  turns out that these Facebook ads had nothing to do with the election. The mini-ads were bought to promote click-bait pages and sites. These pages and sites were created and then promoted to sell further advertisement. The media though, has still not understood the issue.

On September 6 the NYT asserted:

Providing new evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Facebook disclosed on Wednesday that it had identified more than $100,000 worth of divisive ads on hot-button issues purchased by a shadowy Russian company linked to the Kremlin.
The disclosure adds to the evidence of the broad scope of the Russian influence campaign, which American intelligence agencies concluded was designed to damage Hillary Clinton and boost Donald J. Trump during the election.

Like any Congress investigation the current one concerned with Facebook ads is leaking like a sieve. What oozes out makes little sense.

If "Russia" aimed to make Congress and U.S. media a laughing stock it surely achieved that.

Today the NYT says that the ads were posted "in disguise" by "the Russians" to promote variously themed Facebook pages:

There was “Defend the 2nd,” a Facebook page for gun-rights supporters, festooned with firearms and tough rhetoric. There was a rainbow-hued page for gay rights activists, “LGBT United.” There was even a Facebook group for animal lovers with memes of adorable puppies that spread across the site with the help of paid ads.

No one has explained how these pages are supposed to be connected to a Russian "influence" campaign. It is unexplained how these are supposed to connected to the 2016 election. That is simply asserted because Facebook said, for unknown reasons, that these ads may have come from some Russian agency. How Facebook has determined that is not known.

With each detail that leaks from the "Russian ads" investigation the propaganda framework of "election manipulation" falls further apart:

Late Monday, Facebook said in a post that about 10 million people had seen the ads in question. About 44 percent of the ads were seen before the 2016 election and the rest after, the company said.

The original story propagandized that "Russia" intended to influence the election in favor of Trump. But why then was the majority of the ads in questions run later after November 9? And how would an animal-lovers page with adorable puppy pictures help to achieve Trumps election victory?

More details via the Wall Street Journal:

Roughly 25% of the ads were never shown to anyone. That’s because advertising auctions are designed so that ads reach people based on relevance, and certain ads may not reach anyone as a result.
For 50% of the ads, less than $3 was spent; for 99% of the ads, less than $1,000 was spent.

Of the 3,000 ads Facebook originally claimed were "Russian" only 2,200 were ever viewed. Most of the advertisements were mini-ads which, for the price of a coffee, promoted private pages related to hobbies and a wide spectrum of controversial issues. The majority of the ads ran after the election.

All that "adds to the evidence of the broad scope of the Russian influence campaign ... designed to damage Hillary Clinton and boost Donald J. Trump during the election"?


But the NYT still finds "experts" who believe in the "Russian influence"  nonsense and find the most stupid reasons to justify their claims:

Clinton Watts, a former F.B.I. agent now at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, said Russia had been entrepreneurial in trying to develop diverse channels of influence. Some, like the dogs page, may have been created without a specific goal and held in reserve for future use.

Puppy pictures for "future use"?



The pages described and the ads leading to them are typical click-bait.

That for-profit scheme runs as follows:

One builds pages with "hot" stuff that attracts lots of viewers. One creates ad-space on these pages and fills it with Google ads. One promotes the spiked pages by buying $3 Facebook mini-ads for them.

A few thousand users will come and look at a page. Some will 'like' the puppy pictures or the rant against LGBT and further spread the page. Some will click the promoted Google ads. Money then flows into the pocket of the page creator.

One can automatize, rinse and repeat this scheme forever. Each such page is a small effort for a small revenue. But the scheme is highly scale-able and parts of it can be automatized.

This is, in essence, the same business model traditional media publishers use. One creates "news" and controversies to attract readers. The attention of the readers is then sold to advertisers. But this is no longer a closed off oligarchic business. One no longer needs reporters or a printing press to join in. Anyone can now take part in it.

We learned after the election that some youths in Macedonia created whole "news"-websites filled with highly attractive but fake partisan stories. They were not interested in the veracity or political direction of their content. Their only interest was to attract viewers. They made thousands of dollars by selling advertisements on their sites:

The teen said his monthly revenue was in the four figures, a considerable sum in a country where the average monthly pay is 360 euros ($383). As he navigated his site’s statistics, he dropped nuggets of journalism advice.

“You have to write what people want to see, not what you want to show,” he said, scrolling through The Political Insider’s stories as a large banner read “ARREST HILLARY NOW.”

The 3,000 Facebook ads Congress is investigating are part of a similar scheme. The mini-ads promoted pages with hot button issues and click-bait puppy pictures. These pages were themselves created to generate ad-clicks and revenue. As Facebook claims that "Russia" is behind them, we will likely find some Russian teens who simply repeated the scheme their Macedonian friends were running on.

With its "Russian influence" scare campaign the NYT follows the same business model. It is producing fake news which attracts viewers and readers who's attention is then sold to advertisers. Facebook is also profiting from this. Its current piecemeal release of vague information keeps its name in the news.

After the mystery of "Russian" $3 ads for "adorable puppies" pages on Facebook has been solved, Congress and the New York Times will have to move on. There next subject is probably the "Russian influence campaign" on Youtube.

Russian Car Crash Compilations have for years attracted millions of viewers. The "Russian" motive behind these videos is to increase the road rage on U.S. highways. This again will - according to expert Clinton Watts - "amplify divisive political issues across the political spectrum".

The car crash compilations, like the puppy pages, are another sign that Russia is waging war against the people of the United States!

You don't believe that? You should. Trust your experienced politician!

Samantha Power @SamanthaJPower - 3:45 PM - 3 Oct 2017

This gets more chilling daily: now we learn Russia targeted Americans on Facebook by “demographics, geography, gender & interests,” across websites & devices, reached millions, kept going after Nov. An attack on all Americans, not just HRC campaign washingtonpost.com/business/econo…

It indeed gets more chilling. It's fall. It also generates ad revenue.

This article was originally published by Moon Of Alabama -

See also -

Republican Senator Accuses Russia Of Fomenting NFL National Anthem Controversy

Spanish Media Blames “Russian Meddlers” For Catalan Referendum Crisis


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