Internet giants find more Russia-linked election meddling

Russian state-owned television station RT logo is seen at the window of the company's office in Moscow, Russia, in this Oct. 27, 2017 photo. (AP)
Updated 31 October 2017
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Internet giants find more Russia-linked election meddling

SAN FRANCISCO: Internet giants were expected to tell Congress this week that Russian-backed content aimed at manipulating US politics during last year’s election was more extensive than first thought.
Facebook, Google and Twitter were slated to share what they have learned so far from digging into possible connections between Russian entities and posts, ads, and even videos shared on YouTube.
Facebook will tell Congress that some 126 million US users, a potentially large portion of the voting public here, may have seen stories, posts or other content from Russian sources, according to tech news site Recode, the Wall Street Journal and other US media.
The reach is far broader than had originally been estimated by the world’s leading social network.
Facebook did not respond to AFP requests for comment.
Google found that two accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency spent $4,700 on search and display ads during last year’s US election cycle, Google general counsel Kent Walker and director of information security Richard Salgado said in a blog post.
The ads were not targeted based on which states people lived in or their apparent political leanings, the men said.
“Like other Internet platforms, we have found some evidence of efforts to misuse our platforms during the 2016 US election by actors linked to the Internet Research Agency in Russia,” Walker and Salgado said.
“While we have found only limited activity on our services, we will continue to work to prevent all of it, because there is no amount of interference that is acceptable.”
There were 18 channels at YouTube “likely associated” with the campaign that made English language videos available that appeared to have politically-oriented clips in the mix of offerings.
A total of 1,108 such videos were uploaded, totaling 43 hours of content, and racked up 309,000 views in the 18 months leading up to the election won by US President Donald Trump.
The channels had relatively low view counts, with only about three percent of them logging more than 5,000 views. The channels identified have been suspended, according to Walker and Salgado.
There was no evident that RT, a reference to a state-run Russian television network, manipulated YouTube or violated its policies, the men said.
A source familiar with Twitter’s testimony for Congress said the one-to-many messaging service identified 36,746 accounts that “generate automated, election-related content” during the three months leading up to the election and appeared linked to a Russian account.
Those accounts generated approximately 1.4 million automated, election-related Tweets, which collectively received approximately 288 million impressions, meaning responses or other engagement by readers.
Moscow has denied any attempt to manipulate the US election.


Hungary hits Soros, Juncker in new media campaign

Updated 20 February 2019
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Hungary hits Soros, Juncker in new media campaign

  • The campaign provoked a furious reaction from prominent EU politicians
  • EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas dismissed the campaign as "fake news"

BUDAPEST: Hungary launched a new anti-immigration media campaign on Tuesday in which it accused George Soros and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker of allegedly supporting illegal migration, but which Brussels immediately dismissed as "fake news".
According to the Hungarian government's Facebook page, the media blitz — funded with taxpayers' money — is expected to include billboard posters featuring images of the liberal US billionaire Soros and a smiling Juncker above the words: "You too have a right to know what Brussels is preparing".
"They want to bring in the mandatory settlement quota; weaken member states' rights to border defence; facilitate immigration with a migrant visa," it continues.
The campaign provoked a furious reaction from prominent EU politicians, including from Joseph Daul, president of the European People's Party grouping which includes both Juncker and right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party.
In a series of tweets, Daul condemned the campaign, calling its claims "deceitful, misleading and... not based on facts".
Daul denounced Hungary's attacks on Juncker and defended him as a "true Christian Democrat and a real European leader".
He went on to remind Hungary that "decisions in Brussels, including on migration, are taken collectively by EU governments" and the European Parliament, both of which include Hungarian representatives.
The presence of Fidesz within the EPP has long been a source of controversy but there have been no official moves by any of the other centre-right parties in the grouping to expel it.
Orban's government, which has frequently clashed with the EU on migration, has regularly undertaken similar campaigns in the past, including "Let's Stop Brussels" and "Don't let Soros have the last laugh."
In recent years, Orban has blasted the Hungarian-born 88-year-old philanthropist and investor as a "public enemy" for allegedly backing uncontrolled mass immigration.
At the same time, Orban's government has frequently been accused of using anti-Semitic tropes and imagery in its campaigns against Soros, claims it denies.
In recent months, pro-Orban media have also attacked Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini — the author of a critical report about Hungary that formed the basis of EU legal action against Budapest -- and Juncker's deputy Frans Timmermans.
"Brussels continues to want to support illegal immigration," Zoltan Kovacs, a government spokesman, told reporters in Budapest on Tuesday.
"Hungarians need to know about this, that's why the latest information campaign has been launched," he said, denying it is part of the upcoming European Parliament election campaign.
Kovacs said plans in "drawers in Brussels" included hikes in financial funding of NGOs and the creation of a special migration fund.
EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas dismissed the campaign as "fake news".
"The Hungary government campaign beggars belief," he told a briefing in Brussels.
"It is shocking that such a ludicrous conspiracy theory has reached the mainstream to the extent it has. There is no conspiracy. Hungarians deserve facts, not fiction," he said.