12:49 GMT18 September 2020
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    Over half of the ‘Russian advertisements’ that Facebook handed over to the US Congress appeared after the US presidential election, the social network revealed in a Monday press release.

    Facebook revealed that 56 percent of the "ad impressions" (the number of times someone actually saw the ad) were after the US presidential election on November 8, 2016. Facebook wrote that 10 million Americans saw the ads, but if only 44 percent of the impressions came before the election then that means only 4.4 million Americans saw the ads before the election, too.

    Furthermore, Facebook adds, a full 50 percent of the ads were auctioned off for less than $3 and 99 percent of them were auctioned for less than $1,000. And of the 3,000 ads Facebook handed over, a solid 25 percent of them were never displayed to a soul.

    So let's do some math. As per Facebook, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the alleged group of Russian hackers that hijacked the US presidential election, spent about $100,000 on 3,000 ads over two years, from mid-2015 to mid-2017. Of those 3,000 ads, 750 were never shown to anyone. Of the remainder, if we assume equal exposure for each ad, only 44 percent were actually shown during the election — fewer than 1,000 ads.

    Furthermore, 75 percent of the 3,000 ads were national in scope. If we assume that this holds true for the smaller sample, then fewer than 250 ads were geographically targeted at, for instance, a state like Wisconsin (the tipping point of the election, which Trump won by less than 23,000 votes in November). Let's be very charitable to RussiaGate proponents and say all the geographically targeted ads were in key swing states.

    Of the remaining 250 ads that were geographically targeted, Facebook said that "most" of them ran in 2015, before the primaries had even begun. Let's be very generous and say "most" means 51 or 52 percent. That leaves 120 geographically targeted ads that ran in 2016 during the election season that could conceivably influence voters in swing states.

    Of these 120 ads, "the vast majority" of them did not reference a candidate or the presidential election. "Most of the ads appear to focus on divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum, touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights," Facebook reported.

    Let's be generous again and say "vast majority" means 75 percent. That leaves 30 Russia-oriented ads that ran in key swing states during the primaries or the general election, directly referenced the election, and were actually seen by anyone.

    In other words, 1 percent of the 3,000 ads — or about $1,000 worth. RussiaGate proponents like Rachel Maddow, who accused Moscow of "sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016," seem to think that Russia bought the entire US election for the cost of a single iPhone X (without tax).

    Behold, the fabled and fearsome Russian intelligence operation that hijacked the US election.

    Even if Sputnik's absurdly generous math (based entirely on Facebook's own statistics, assumptions that err in the favor of RussiaGate, and the assumption that a random sample of the ads is representative of the whole) is totally off, then the fact remains that Hillary Clinton spent almost $1.2 billion on her campaign. She spent $172 million on the primary season alone, or 1,720 times as much as the IRA did over a two-year period.

    And yet somehow, the IRA's pittance meant more than all of that.

    Or perhaps the US just elected Donald Trump all by itself.


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    Russia gate, advertising, ads, Internet Research Agency, Facebook, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg
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