After running a blockbuster headline Monday that former President Barack Obama “sought to prod Facebook on Russia role,” the news outlet retracted part of the story Tuesday. “The president did not single out Russia specifically” when he spoke with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about taking on fake stories and disinformation on the social media site, according to the Post’s updated story.
A separate report, "Russian operatives used Facebook ads to exploit America’s racial, religious divisions," demonstrates that “Russian ads” focused on major social issues in the US like Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights.
The reports paint a picture in which "Russian ads" were able to out-muscle all US-purchased digital political advertisements in 2016. Clinton’s campaign dropped $55 million on digital ads during election season, while Trump’s campaign allocated $90 million to digital advertisements, Politico estimated.
It takes a certain kind of imagination to construe the "Russian" purchase of $150,000 worth of Facebook ads as evidence Moscow secretly tried to meddle in American elections. Indeed, the Washington Post admitted that “Facebook said the spending represented a tiny fraction of the political advertising on the platform during the 2016 campaign.”
Facebook earned $26 billion in advertising revenue during fiscal year 2016, according to the company’s full year 2016 results. “Russian ads” accounted for three-tenths of one percent of the firm’s 2016 ad revenues, Sputnik News calculates.
The Washington Post editorial team doesn’t "even know, by the way" what entity in particular purchased the ads, “they’re just presuming it was a Russian company of some sort," University of Pittsburgh School of Law professor Dan Kovalik told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear Tuesday.
"One of the things I notice in all of these articles – these RussiaGate conspiracy type articles – is that everything can become 'linked to the Kremlin,' but nothing can ever actually be traced back to the Russian government itself," said Walter Smolarek, Loud & Clear’s producer.
"The Post has begun blaming almost every unpleasant development in the world on Russia! Russia! Russia!" George Polk Award recipient Robert Parry wrote in response to the Washington Post’s "Russian operatives used Facebook ads to exploit America’s racial, religious divisions" article.
The RussiaGate witch-hunt relies on two hidden premises, says Kovalik, namely that Russian President Vladimir Putin is both de facto omnipotent and evil, "neither of which are true." Without those details simply assumed, conspiracy stories are little more than a "tempest in a teapot," the professor said.
It's also false to assume no party is benefiting from the Post-fueled culture of blame and presumption of sinister intent. Parry writes, "the neocons and their allies have exploited the anti-Russian frenzy to extract tens of millions of dollars more from taxpayers for programs to 'combat Russian propaganda,' i.e., funding of nongovernmental organizations and ‘scholars’ who target dissident Americans for challenging the justifications for this New Cold War."