8/1/18, “Shadowy Facebook account led to real-life Trump protests,“ The Hill, Ali Breland
“At least three of the events co-organized on Facebook by a group the company now thinks was part of a coordinated disinformation network appear to have been held, and to have been attended by hundreds of people.
The events, in New York City and Springfield, Mo., were all co-hosted on Facebook by a group called the Resisters. All three events were critical of President Trump.
Archived versions of the event pages showed that 674 people responded on Facebook to say that they would attend the “We Stand with DREAMers! Support DACA!” event in New York on Sept. 9 last year. Another 3,000 said they were interested in attending.
The New York Post reported that “thousands” of people gathered in Midtown on Sept. 9 to protest Trump’s decision to unwind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed children brought to the U.S. illegally to live and work in the United States.
It appears to be the same event co-hosted by Resisters on Facebook, as it took place on the same date and at the same location as the group’s “We Stand with DREAMers! Support DACA!” event.
More than 2,000 people said they were interested in attending “The People’s Protest. Springfield against Trump” in the Missouri town on Aug. 30,  and 726 said that they planned to attend the event.
Springfield, Mo.’s NBC affiliate, KY3, and the Kansas City Star reported that hundreds of protesters showed up on that date to protest President Trump’s trip to Springfield at the time.
The third event that appears to have taken place was titled “Protest Trump and ideology of hate at Trump Tower!” Around 4,700 said they were interested in attending the event and 1,400 said they were attending on the Facebook page.
DNAInfo reported that thousands protested Trump at Trump Tower on Aug. 14, 2017, the same day and location of the event promoted on Facebook.
Reports at the time from The Hill and The Washington Post also highlighted the protest.
All three events were hosted by what appear to be legitimate groups in addition to the Resisters.
Facebook on Tuesday said “inauthentic” groups, including Resisters, created roughly 30 events. Facebook in a call with reporters highlighted fake pages set up by the groups, but said it had no evidence on whether the events actually took place.
There is some evidence that the events set up by Resisters were meant to piggy-back on existing, legitimate events by opponents of Trump.
Indivisible St. Louis told The Hill that its Springfield event was already being organized when Resisters contacted them on Facebook. They also said that they did not encounter any representatives from Resisters at the protest.”…
[Ed. note: If “representatives from Resisters” were Russian trolls and actually went to a US event, anyone they spoke with would know by their accent that they were from Russia. Not that there’s anything wrong with Russian accents, but if you’re leading a cheer at a US political rally in a foreign accent other than Spanish, someone will likely say to you afterward, “Hey! welcome, pal, where ya from?”].
(continuing): “The  Columbus Circle in New York protest similarly capitalized on [alleged] nationwide outrage over Trump’s DACA policy and may have been organized regardless.
Protests against the policy had already occurred early in September 2017.
Roger Ray of the Emerging Church in Springfield, said that the protest he was involved in would have happened regardless.
“I don’t doubt there were lots of fakes groups that might have tried to glom on, but they didn’t have any physical representation. They wouldn’t have had any influence,” he told The Hill in a phone interview.
It’s not clear who was behind the Resisters work.
Facebook executives did not blame Russia or the Russian troll group the Internet Research Agency (IRA), but said that the behavior matched past work by the IRA.
The IRA during the 2016 presidential election created events that were highlighted on Facebook, including one [against Trump] in New York City attended by thousands.
Multiple organizers told The Hill that they were frustrated by the possibility that the involvement of a fake account could undermine their actual cause and stressed that they were engaged in real organizing.
“I certainly was not inspired by Russia or anything like that,” Ray said.”
[Added: Online Russian trolls don’t promote Russia, they pretend to be Americans. They don’t even promote one US political candidate over another, instead add divisive social messages to existing internet clutter and hope some of it takes. US mass media already incites hatred and division 24/7 so Russian trolls are really wasting their time. Further on Russian trolls, “Facebook says 56% of the ads ran after the election,” and, “Most of the ads did not solicit support for a candidate and carried messages on issues like racism, immigration and guns.”…
10/15/17, “You Can’t Buy the Presidency for $100,000,“ Wall St. Journal, Mark Penn, op-ed (Penn was chief strategist for Hillary’s 2008 pres. campaign, her 2000 Senate campaign, and for Bill Clinton’s 1996 pres. campaign)
“Russia didn’t win Trump the White House any more than China re-elected Bill Clinton in 1996.”
“The fake news about fake news is practically endless. Americans worried about Russia’s influence in the 2016 election have seized on a handful of Facebook ads—as though there weren’t also three 90-minute debates, two televised party conventions, and $2.4 billion spent on last year’s campaign. The danger is that bending facts to fit the Russia story line may nudge Washington into needlessly and recklessly regulating the internet and curtailing basic freedoms.
After an extensive review, Facebook has identified [that during a two year period, 7 months of which were AFTER the election] $100,000 of ads that came from accounts associated with Russia. Assume for the sake of argument that Vladimir Putin personally authorized this expenditure. Given its divisive nature, the campaign could be dubbed “From Russia, With Hate”—except it would make for a disappointing James Bond movie.
Analyzing the pattern of expenditures, and doing some back-of-the-envelope math, it’s clear this was no devilishly effective plot. Facebook says 56% of the ads ran after the election, reducing the tally that could have influenced the result to about $44,000. It also turns out the ads were not confined to swing states but also shown in places like New York, California and Texas.
Supposing half the ads went to swing states brings the total down to $22,000.”…
[Links for above paragraph: Facebook says only about 25% were “geographically targeted” (no locations mentioned), and of those “more ran in 2015 than 2016.“ They’ve already said that 56% of the total ran AFTER the election. Not stated is how many “targeted” ads ran after the election.]
(continuing): “Facebook also counted ads as early as June 2015.
Assuming they were evenly spread and we want only those that ran the year of the election, that knocks it down to $13,000.
Most of the ads did not solicit support for a candidate and carried messages on issues like racism, immigration and guns. The actual electioneering then amounts to about $6,500.
Now look at the bigger picture. Every day, Americans see hundreds of ads on TV and radio, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and smartphones. North Americans post to Facebook something like a billion times a day, and during the election many of those messages were about politics. Facebook typically runs about $40 million worth of advertising a day in North America.
Then consider the scale of American presidential elections. Hillary Clinton’s total campaign budget, including associated committees, was $1.4 billion. Mr. Trump and his allies had about $1 billion. Even a full $100,000 of Russian ads would have erased just 0.025% of Hillary’s financial advantage. In the last week of the campaign alone, Mrs. Clinton’s super PAC dumped $6 million in ads into Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
I have 40 years of experience in politics, and this Russian ad buy, mostly after the election anyway, simply does not add up to a carefully targeted campaign to move voters. It takes tens of millions of dollars to deliver meaningful messages to the contested portion of the electorate. Converting someone who voted for the other party last time is an enormously difficult task.
Swing voters in states like Ohio or Florida are typically barraged with 50% or more of a campaign’s budget. Try watching TV in those states the week before an election and you will see how jammed the airwaves are.
No one wants foreign governments meddling in American elections. In 1996, the Chinese government had the “China plan” and pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign. There were congressional investigations, and several fundraisers were prosecuted, but Attorney General Janet Reno rejected calls for an independent counsel.
Campaigns tightened up their donor-validation procedures, and life moved on. The same is called for here. Internet companies should improve their screening of electioneering ads, impose clearer standards on all ads, and do a better job weeding out phony accounts.
Millions of taxpayer dollars have probably been spent already poring over that $100,000 of Facebook ads. Better to keep it all in perspective, as everyone did in 1996. The only way Russia will get its money’s worth is if Washington overreacts and narrows the very freedoms that make America different in the first place.” [Facebook says roughly 25% of the ads were never shown to anyone.]