Facebook keeps policy protecting political ads | ABS-CBN News

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Facebook logos are seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken Dec. 2, 2019. Johanna Geron, Reuters/file

SAN FRANCISCO — Defying pressure from Congress, Facebook said on Thursday that it would continue to allow political campaigns to use the site to target advertisements to particular slices of the electorate and that it would not police the truthfulness of the messages sent out.

The stance put Facebook, the most important digital platform for political ads, at odds with some of the other large tech companies, which have begun to put new limits on political ads.

Facebook’s decision, telegraphed in recent months by executives, is likely to harden criticism of the company heading into this year’s presidential election.

Political advertising cuts to the heart of Facebook’s outsize role in society, and the company has found itself squeezed between liberal critics, who want it to do a better job of policing its various social media platforms, and conservatives, who say their views are being unfairly muzzled.

The issue has raised important questions regarding how heavy a hand technology companies like Facebook — which also owns Instagram and the messaging app WhatsApp — and Google should exert when deciding what types of political content they will and will not permit.

By maintaining a status quo, Facebook executives are essentially saying they are doing the best they can without government guidance and see little benefit to the company or the public in changing.

In a blog post, a company official echoed Facebook’s earlier calls for lawmakers to set firm rules.

“In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies,” Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management overseeing the advertising integrity division, said in the post. “We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.”

Other social media companies have decided otherwise, and some had hoped Facebook would quietly follow their lead. In late October, Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, banned all political advertising from his network, citing the challenges that novel digital systems present to civic discourse. Google quickly followed suit with limits on political ads across some of its properties, though narrower in scope.

Reaction to Facebook’s policy broke down largely along party lines.

The Trump campaign, which has been highly critical of any attempts by technology companies to regulate political advertising and has already spent more than $27 million on the platform, largely supported Facebook’s decision not to interfere in targeting ads or to set fact-checking standards.

“Our ads are always accurate so it’s good that Facebook won’t limit political messages because it encourages more Americans to be involved in the process,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign. “This is much better than the approaches from Twitter and Google, which will lead to voter suppression.”

Democratic presidential candidates and outside groups decried the decision.

“Facebook is paying for its own glowing fake news coverage, so it’s not surprising they’re standing their ground on letting political figures lie to you,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

Warren, who has been among the most critical of Facebook and regularly calls for major tech companies to be broken up, reiterated her stance that the social media company should face tougher policies.

The Biden campaign was similarly critical. The campaign has confronted Facebook over an ad run by President Donald Trump’s campaign that attacked Joe Biden’s record on Ukraine.

“Donald Trump’s campaign can (and will) still lie in political ads,” Bill Russo, the deputy communications director for Biden, said in a statement. “Facebook can (and will) still profit off it. Today’s announcement is more window dressing around their decision to allow paid misinformation.”

But many Democratic groups willing to criticize Facebook had to walk a fine line; they have pushed for more regulation when it comes to fact-checking political ads, but they have been adamantly opposed to any changes to the ad-targeting features.

On Thursday, some Democratic outside groups welcomed Facebook’s decision not to limit micro-targeting, but still thought the policy fell short.

“These changes read to us mostly as a cover for not making the change that is most vital: ensuring politicians are not allowed to use Facebook as a tool to lie to and manipulate voters,” said Madeline Kriger, who oversees digital ad buying at Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC.

Other groups, however, said Facebook had been more thoughtful about political ads than its industry peers.

“Facebook opted against limiting ad targeting, because doing so would have unnecessarily restricted a valuable tool that campaigns of all sizes rely on for fundraising, registering voters, building crowds and organizing volunteers,” said Tara McGowan, chief executive of Acronym, a non-profit group that works on voter organization and progressive causes.

Facebook has played down the business opportunity in political ads, saying the vast majority of its revenue came from commercial, not political, ads. But lawmakers have noted that Facebook ads could be a focal point of Trump’s campaign as well as those of top Democrats.

Facebook’s hands-off ad policy has already allowed for misleading advertisements. In October, a Facebook ad from the Trump campaign made false accusations about Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. The ad quickly went viral and was viewed by millions. After the Biden campaign asked Facebook to take down the ad, the company refused.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Facebook’s head of global elections policy, Katie Harbath, wrote in the letter to the Biden campaign.

In an attempt to provoke Facebook, Warren’s presidential campaign ran an ad falsely claiming that the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was backing the reelection of Trump. Facebook did not take the ad down.

Criticism seemed to stiffen Zuckerberg’s resolve. Company officials said he and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s president, had ultimately made the decision to stand firm.

In a strongly worded speech at Georgetown University in October, Zuckerberg said he believed in the power of unfettered speech, including in paid advertising, and did not want to be in the position to police what politicians could and could not say to constituents. Facebook’s users, he said, should be allowed to make those decisions for themselves.

“People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society,” he said.

Facebook officials have repeatedly said significant changes to its rules for political or issue ads could harm the ability of smaller, less well-funded organizations to raise money and organize across the network.

Instead of overhauling its policies, Facebook has made small tweaks. Leathern said Facebook would add greater transparency features to its library of political advertising in the coming months, a resource for journalists and outside researchers to scrutinize the types of ads run by the campaigns.

Facebook also will add a feature that allows users to see fewer campaign and political issue ads in their news feeds, something the company has said many users have requested.

There was considerable debate inside Facebook about whether it should change. Late last year, hundreds of employees supported an internal memo that called on Zuckerberg to limit the abilities of Facebook’s political advertising products.

On Dec. 30, Andrew Bosworth, the head of Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality division, wrote on his internal Facebook page that, as a liberal, he found himself wanting to use the social network’s powerful platform against Trump.

But Bosworth said that even though keeping the current policies in place “very well may lead to” Trump’s reelection, it was the right decision. Dozens of Facebook employees pushed back on Bosworth’s conclusions, arguing in the comments section below his post that politicians should be held to the same standard that applies to other Facebook users.

For now, Facebook appears willing to risk disinformation in support of unfettered speech.

“Ultimately, we don’t think decisions about political ads should be made by private companies,” Leathern said. “Frankly, we believe the sooner Facebook and other companies are subject to democratically accountable rules on this, the better.”

2020 The New York Times Company

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How religion divides and under-develops Africa by Reno

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Reno Omokri
Reno Omokri

By Reno Omokri

Yesterday, I saw Nigerian Shiites demonstrating against the United States and President Donald Trump, and I groaned in my spirit. When will Africans become themselves and stop being remote controlled by foreign interests?

Most Africans think they chose their religions. Not true. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of Africans had their religions handed down to them by Europeans or Arabs. How do I mean?

Let us take Nigeria as a case study. Most Nigerians are either Christian, Muslims, or Catholics. Many of them will even die to defend their faiths. But how did they get these faiths?

Most Muslims in Northern Nigerian were born into Islam. Most Nigerian Muslims did not make a conscious decision to become Muslims. They just found themselves as Muslims and accepted it. But the historical fact is that most of their ancestors were CONQUERED into Islam, either by the Usman Dan Fodio jihad of 1804, or by the Kanem Bornu empire (one of the oldest empires on Earth), or by Arabs during the the Tran Saharan Slave Trade. This is a historical fact and I do not mean to upset my beloved Muslim followers.

At first they resisted. Then they were conquered. They were FORCED to accept Islam. Those who refused were killed, and the survivors, fearing a similar fate, accepted the new religion. Then they had children who knew nothing but Islam, and the rest is history.

Nigeria was colonised by Britain. Britain is OFFICIALLY a very staunch Protestant nation, with the Church of England (Anglican Church) as the OFFICIAL state church. Have Nigerians ever wondered why the British allowed Catholicism to flourish in Nigeria even when it was suppressed in Britain for centuries? Or why they did not allow Christian Missionaries into the North?

Other than the Binis and Itsekiri, who voluntarily accepted Catholicism in the 15th Century due to their trade with the Portuguese, Catholicism only gained ground in Nigeria, and especially amongst the Igbos of the East of Nigeria, in the 19th Century.

The British had a colonial policy of Divide and Rule. They did not allow Christian missionaries into Nigeria for love of Christianity or God, or Africans. It was a deliberate colonial policy to sow discord and division in Nigeria and their other colonial territories all over the world, and to keep nations, like Nigeria, ever subservient to Europe as a supplier of raw materials and human labour in times of war (Nigerians in their thousands fought for the British in both World Wars and were often used almost as cannon fodder) and in times of peace (Nigerians are a backbone of the health sector in both the UK and US. 77% of all Black doctors in America are Nigerian).

The British decided that Anglicanism snd other forms of Protestantism should thrive amongst the Yoruba and that Catholicism should thrive amongst the Igbo, and they refused to let Christian missionaries proselytise in the North to keep it Muslim, so that both the South and the North would be perpetually divided and check each other, and will never be able to unite against the colonialists.

Every missionary that came to Nigeria was licensed by the British. The Catholicism you see in Igboland today is the fruit of four Catholic missionaries who arrived Onitsha in 1885, as part of the Holy Ghost Fathers, led by a certain Reverend Father Lutz. In fact, the house where they first stayed was owned by the Royal Niger Company (which influenced the formation of the colonial Nigerian government, and even provided personnel for them. Lord Lugard was a staff of the Royal Niger Company).

Meanwhile, as they were promoting Catholicism in Eastern Nigeria, the British were promoting Protestantism in Western Nigeria, where Henry Townsend planted the first church in Badagry, in 1842. When the British rescued Samuel Ajayi Crowther from Fulani and Portuguese slavers, he was handed over to the Church Missionary Society (the proselytising mission of the Anglican Church), who educated him, and used him to extend Anglicanism amongst the Edekiri people. Ajayi Crowther eventually changed their name to Yoruba (a bastardisation of the Fulani word Yaribansa), because the British wanted a common identity for all Edekiri people.

That is how we come to have a Nigeria dominated by Muslims in the North, Anglicans and other Protestants in the West, and Catholicism in the East. It was not by chance. It was not by the choice of Nigerians. To the largest extent, with only very few exception, it is by design of external powers.

I urge Africans to think about their religions. Do not just accept your religion because of the accident of your birth. Your eternal soul is too valuable to be left to chance.

I use myself as an example. I was born to a Catholic mother and an Anglican father. While my mother schooled in Europe, I was anglicised by the rest of the family who were Anglican.

I remained an Anglican until I went to university. Free at last from my parents, I at first became a campus evangelist at the University of Benin in 1990 at the age of 16, until I left for another university and became an atheist at age 18, and began reading The Bible, and the Quran in other to know the true God.

May God bless my parents, they did not interfere. They did not force me to go to church. They left me to choose.

For one whole year, I did not believe in God, until after reading Scripture, the Quran and Dr. Yongi Cho’s (now David Yongi Cho) book, the Fourth Dimension, I found God by myself. Alone. Without the help of Arabs, or Europeans, or my parents. That is why today, NOTHING can shake my faith. I was not born as a Christ follower. I was CONVINCED into following Christ by Scripture and a personal experience with God and I was ordained as a pastor on January 15, 2012.

If all Africans can free their minds and choose their religion by themselves, Africans will stop being divided and fighting each other on the basis of religion and region, and we will no longer by the patsies of European and Arab nations, and Africa will be truly free to become the greatest continent on Planet Earth.

Reno Omokri

Gospeller. Deep Thinker. #1 Bestselling author of Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years. Avid traveller. Hollywood Magazine Film Festival Humanitarian of the Year, 2019.

The post How religion divides and under-develops Africa by Reno appeared first on Vanguard News.

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The Sandman Says Women Main Eventing Is Wrong, Chris Jericho Reacts

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• ON THIS DAY IN WWF HISTORY (December 1, 1997) – WWF RAW IS WAR

On this day in 1997, the World Wrestling Federation aired another episode of their weekly TV show ‘WWF RAW IS WAR’.

It was broadcasted from the Civic Center in Roanoke, Virginia and featured matches, interviews & storyline segments on the road to the ‘WWF In Your House 19: D-Generation X’ PPV.

Here’s the card:

1. TAKA Michinoku vs. Mr. Aguila

2. D-Lo Brown vs. Recon vs. Chainz vs. Miguel Perez Jr.

3. Rocky Maivia vs. Vader

4. Brian Christopher vs. Scott Taylor

5. Ahmed Johnson vs. Jeff Jarrett

6. Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Jim Neidhart

• The Sandman Says Women Main Eventing Shows Is Wrong, Chris Jericho Reacts

Impact Wrestling star Jordynne Grace noted on Twitter that ECW Legend The Sandman said to her that women main eventing wrestling shows is “wrong”.

Below is what she tweeted:

“Hey remember that time The Sandman came up to four women about to main event to tell us that women main eventing is “wrong” and “any male wrestler with any sort of experience would agree”?

Was this in 1998?

No, it was tonight. December 2019.”

Hey remember that time The Sandman came up to four women about to main event to tell us that women main eventing is “wrong” and “any male wrestler with any sort of experience would agree”?

Was this in 1998?

No, it was tonight. December 2019.

This led to multiple wrestlers, including current AEW World Champion Chris Jericho, standing up for the female wrestlers:

— Chris Jericho (@IAmJericho) December 1, 2019

Gross. I hope he stuck around to see the match and eat his words.

— ❌adison Rayne (@MadisonRayne) December 1, 2019

Really???

Most of the women wrestlers are pulling off more innovating & exciting stuff then the ever before.

Can’t tell you the amount of times I go watch a Stardom match & want to retire cos their matches are INSANE!

Let’s not interfere with progress, everyone keep killing it https://t.co/dbHTDSTZuG

— ᵂⁱˡˡ ᴼˢᵖʳᵉᵃʸ • ウィル・オスプレイ (@WillOspreay) December 1, 2019

I… am speechless

— “HEARTcore” Shazza McKenzie (@Shazza_McKenzie) December 1, 2019

— Melissa Santos (@ThisIsMelSantos) December 1, 2019

WATCH: Hot Video Of WWF Diva Sable Stripping & Showing Off Her Assets:

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Trump’s right-wing media diet is a factor in the impeachment inquiry

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New York (CNN Business)A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

The whistleblower’s complaint says “I do not know why the President associates these servers with Ukraine.”
Well, he must not be an avid consumer of the MAGA media universe.
    As The Daily Beast’s Kevin Poulsen explained here, Trump was “referencing a conspiracy theory pushed by Russian trolls and far-right pundits that imagines the Democratic National Committee fabricating all the evidence in Russia’s 2016 breach of the DNC network.” In other words, it’s a Russia-friendly theory that contradicts all of the U.S. intel community assessments about Russia’s meddling in the election.
    It went “from the depths of 4chan, promoted by Russian media, to the president’s mouth,” BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick wrote.
    This is how the president’s alt-right media diet actively hurts his presidency and the public.

    John Solomon’s contributions

    WaPo’s Philip Bump zeroed in on this point on Thursday. “There’s little indication at this point that Trump’s media diet is anything other than a buffet of conservative television and Internet articles. That diet might just have contributed to the most significant threat Trump’s presidency has seen,” Bump wrote.
    The allegations in the whistleblower complaint “include a significant number of news articles published by a popular conservative opinion columnist for the Hill” — that’s John Solomon, a Fox regular — “articles that the whistleblower seems to think contributed to the fervency of the Trump-Giuliani effort.”
    Bump said it’s clear that “Solomon’s reporting and the stories he helped advance were simultaneously politically useful to Trump and potentially influenced his thinking.” And he pointed out that former chief of staff John Kelly specifically tried to keep these sorts of “unvetted” stories off of Trump’s desk. It doesn’t seem like anyone is trying to do that now…
    → For more on Solomon, WaPo’s Paul Farhi is out with a new story… It says Solomon “has had a long, and occasionally decorated, career as an editor and investigative reporter in Washington, though his more recent work has been trailed by claims that it is biased and lacks rigor…”

    What Trump’s favorite TV shows are telling him

    Right now they’re telling him that he’s a hero. That the Democrats just hate him no matter what. That, as Dan Bongino said, “this was a professional hit on Donald Trump. I have no doubt.” And that, as Mark Meadows told Lou Dobbs, “the president didn’t do anything wrong.” Trump tweeted out three different clips from Dobbs’ show on Thursday… and two clips from Sean Hannity’s show…
    → Gabriel Sherman reported on Thursday that Fox’s Shep Smith was told to stop critiquing Tucker Carlson. A Fox spokesperson denied that management had any direct conversation with Smith. At issue: The question of whether Trump is in legal jeopardy.
    → Oliver Darcy writes: A chyron on Laura Ingraham’s show said ‘Legal Experts: Both Call And Complaint Show No Criminality or Basis for Impeachment.’ Fox’s senior legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano has said Trump admitted to a crime. Shep Smith has cited other experts who agree. It’s nuts how it has become totally normal for Fox’s biggest stars to totally undermine and contradict the reporting and analysis from their own colleagues…

    NYT’s banner headline on Friday

    The front page says “COMPLAINT ASSERTS A WHITE HOUSE COVER-UP.”
    news
    …And that’s arguably the biggest headline from Thursday: The whistleblower’s allegation that senior White House officials tried to “lock down” a record of Trump’s call, and that other politically sensitive info may have been treated the same way…

    NYT criticized for identifying whistleblower’s workplace

    Who is the whistleblower? Where does he work? What were his motives? Reporters have been chasing these Q’s for more than a week. On Thursday the NYT came out with a story describing the whistleblower as a CIA officer, though not naming him. The paper was widely criticized for sharing the details. The man’s lawyer, Andrew Bakaj, said the report was “reckless, as it can place the individual in harm’s way.” The WSJ later matched the NYT’s reporting.
    Times exec editor Dean Baquet initially defended the reporting this way: “The role of the whistle-blower, including his credibility and his place in the government, is essential to understanding one of the most important issues facing the country — whether the president of the U.S. abused power and whether the W.H. covered it up.”

    Did the W.H. already know where the man worked?

    On Thursday evening, the NYT came out with more: “The White House learned that a C.I.A. officer had lodged allegations against President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine even as the officer’s whistle-blower complaint was moving through a process meant to protect him against reprisals, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.”
    Baquet updated his statement to note, “We also understand that the White House already knew he was a C.I.A. officer.” If that’s the case, it takes some of the heat off the NYT, for sure…

    The LAT’s scoop

    Eli Stokols of the Los Angeles Times was the first reporter with quotes from Trump’s shocking remarks to a group of diplomatic officials on Thursday. The NYT followed a few minutes later. The LAT was also first with the audio. “When I heard it for the first time today, it just took me aback,” Stokols told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, calling it “casually menacing.”
    → In his remarks, Trump also said “many” reporters are “scum,” a word that he has mostly deployed against MS-13 gang members and other criminals in the past. He also called members of the press “animals” and “some of the worst human beings you’ll ever meet.”

    Coming up on Friday…

    — Nancy Pelosi will be on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” at 7:30am…
    — Pelosi and House Dems will be holding a presser on 200 days of “Senate GOP Inaction” at 9:30am…
    — BTW, Friday marks 200 days without an on-camera White House press briefing…

    FOR THE RECORD

    — TIME’s cover this week has Trump painting himself into an orange corner…
    — Greg Miller’s analysis: “The whistleblower has by some measures exceeded in weeks what Mueller accomplished in two years: producing a file so concerning and sound that it singlehandedly set in motion the gears of impeachment.” (WaPo)
    — Lester Holt at the end of “Nightly News” on Thursday: “If history is any guide, this will only get uglier. And louder. And yes, further leach at this country’s political divide. Which makes our collective challenge even more important: To listen. To ask. To examine the facts and demand nothing short of the truth. That’s what we endeavor to do here every night. And will continue to do as this story unfolds…” (Mediaite)
    — Tim Naftali, former director of the Nixon library: “The Whistleblower complaint is from a patriot who understands and fears Abuse of Power. If even 50 % of his fears are accurate, we are in a variation of Nixonland again…” (Twitter)
    — Samantha Storey in praise of the whistleblower’s complaint: “It’s well written. It’s clear. The sentences are easy to read. Its point ― that the president of the United States has undermined America’s democracy ― screams off the page…” (HuffPost)

    McConnell’s silence

    “Sen. Mitch McConnell, who often ignores reporters’ questions but sometimes engages, just ignored three of mine,” CNN’s Manu Raju reported Thursday afternoon. “I asked him if he’s concerned the whistleblower alleged Trump sought help from a foreign power to interfere in the 2020 elections. I asked if he’s concerned that the WH allegedly sought to conceal the president’s conversations And I asked if he has any concerns with Trump asking the Ukraine president to talk [to] Rudy Giuliani.” McConnell “walked in silence…”
    → Related, and the headline of the day, from the WSJ: “Everyone In Washington Is Reading the Whistleblower Complaint — Except Senate Republicans.”

      Romney is not alone, but…

      Jonathan Martin is out with a must-read story about Mitt Romney. He says Romney’s public statements of concern “reflect what many in his party believe privately but are almost uniformly unwilling to say: that they are faced with damning revelations about the president that are difficult to explain away, and are unsure of whether there is more damaging material to come.” This calls to mind what Mike Murphy said on MSNBC the other day: “One Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump.”

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      Russia and 2020 Elections

      One week after Robert Mueller’s testimony shined a spotlight, once again, on election interference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is feeling the heat. The leader turned heads on the Senate floor Monday as he rose to decry critics who have dubbed him “a Russian asset” and “Moscow Mitch” for stonewalling congressional measures to improve election security. And with momentum building in the House to formally start impeachment proceedings against President Trump, the pressure is unlikely to let up anytime soon.

      Focusing on election interference from 2016 is backwards thinking, though, at least according to Virginia Senator Mark Warner. With 2020 just around the corner, he tells WIRED—in an exclusive interview—that the upcoming election is where both parties need to direct their attention right now.

      As the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner has long been a vocal proponent of new legislation to strengthen election protections, such as the Honest Ad Act, which would compel Silicon Valley firms to disclose when political ads are paid for by a foreign nation. He’s also behind a bill that would require campaigns to alert federal officials if they’re approached by a foreign operative offering information or other assistance. Both bills have bipartisan support—Senator Susan Collins became the first Republican to cosponsor the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act earlier this week.

      Even as GOP leaders try to position election security as a partisan issue, Warner—a former governor of Virginia and a cofounder of the firm that eventually became Nextel—has maintained the respect of his colleagues across the aisle. But his frustration seems to be growing, especially now that Trump has tapped Representative John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to be his next director of national intelligence. Unlike Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has already come out opposed to Ratcliffe, Warner tells WIRED he’s still got some patience left. Even if it’s wearing thin.

      This transcript is slightly edited for length and clarity.

      WIRED: After Mueller testified, the president and Republicans say case closed. What do you make of that?

      Mark Warner: I’m not here to relitigate 2016, or the Mueller testimony, specifically. I would point out, out of the Mueller investigation: 37 indictments, the president’s national security adviser pled guilty. The president’s campaign manager pled guilty. The president’s deputy campaign manager pled guilty. The president’s chief political adviser is coming to trial in the fall, Roger Stone. The attorney general had to resign. There were literally hundreds of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.

      That’s not normal. And I think the biggest takeaway from the Mueller testimony was that the Russians who attacked us in 2016 are still attacking us and, in Bob Mueller’s words, on a daily basis. You combine that with the warnings from Trump’s own FBI director [Christopher Wray] and Trump’s own director of national intelligence [Dan Coats]. And one of the things that concerns me the greatest is that we’ve not done more to protect the integrity of our election system in 2020.

      I was just talking to your [Intelligence Committee] cochair, Senator [Richard] Burr, and he was saying the states in 2018 weathered these attacks, the national infrastructure is good on election security. Basically, case closed, again, not much more is needed.

      I think everyone picked up their game in 2018, including the Department of Homeland Security, and our intelligence community was more active as well. But the intelligence community’s own reporting was that Russia didn’t throw its full force of efforts in 2018. Chances are they’ll reserve those for the presidential election. So I think there is some low-hanging fruit that would get 75 votes on the floor of the Senate—if we could get these bills to the floor of the Senate.

      I think there ought to be an affirmative obligation that if a foreign government, the Kremlin, offers you campaign help, your obligation ought to be not to say thank you, but to report to the FBI. I think we ought to make sure that every polling station in America has a paper ballot backup, so that if a machine was hacked, you’ve still got ability to protect the integrity of the voting system. And I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t think we need some basic guard rails around the manipulation of Facebook, Twitter, and Google by foreign entities and others. So at least there ought to be the requirement that if somebody advertises on a political basis on Facebook, but in truth it’s a foreign government, they ought to have the same disclosure requirements as somebody who advertises on radio or television.

      Isn’t it a little bit ironic that in this highly digital era, we’re going back to paper ballots?

      I think we need to make sure that we use the best technology, but if technology, as we see from banks this week, can continue to be hacked into, if voting machines are not as protected as needed, if the private companies who control the voter files could have their information moved around … You don’t need to change votes to cause chaos. I think people’s overall confidence in the system goes up if there is that back check of having a paper ballot backup. Again, this is not saying we wouldn’t still use voting machines, but across the election community everyone believes it’s safer if you have that paper ballot backup that goes along with the voting counting machines.

      And now we know we’re getting attacked, cybersecurity is on the top of many minds. And then the president this week announced he’s nominating Representative John Ratcliffe to be DNI, who seems like more of a politician and a Trump supporter than someone from the intel community. Does that worry you?

      It worries me greatly. The irony is that Donald Trump’s appointees in the intel world—his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats; his director of the FBI, Chris Wray, his director of the CIA, Gina Haspel—have been pretty good about speaking truth to power, even when Trump did not want to hear the truth. They’ve been very good at not allowing America’s intelligence to get politicized—while I’m going to give Mr. Ratcliffe the courtesy of a meeting, I fear that he is being appointed in the mold of a Bill Barr, the attorney general, who basically is simply a loyalist first to Donald Trump and doesn’t maintain that kind of independence.

      If there’s ever been a time when everyone says that Russians and others will be back, when we’ve got as many potential conflict spots around the world, we need to make sure that the head of our national intelligence is not going to politicize the intelligence. That intelligence product goes to our military, it goes to the executive, it goes to us in the Congress. It cannot be a political product. And we’ve got to make sure that the intelligence community is going to be willing to speak truth to power, and that means telling Donald Trump the truth, even if he doesn’t want to hear it. And so far it appears to me that Mr. Ratcliffe, who doesn’t have much experience and who seems—based upon press reports—that his audition was based on questioning Mueller and questioning the legitimacy of the Russian’s intervention in our electoral system, is pretty chilling.

      What do you see as the biggest threats—or are there any new threats—facing America in 2020?

      So I think there are a couple of new threats. One, Russia in 2016 was surprised at how vulnerable our systems were, our electoral systems. And how easy Facebook and Twitter and YouTube were to be manipulated. So I think that playbook is now out there, they’ve used the same tactics in the Brexit vote [and] the French presidential elections. So my fear is we may not only see Russia, we can see Iran, we could potentially see China, who has a great deal of control over a number of their Chinese tech companies, start to use these tools because they’re cheap and effective. I like to point out that if you add up all Russia spent in the Brexit vote, the French presidential elections, and the 2016 American elections, it’s less than the cost of one new F-35 airplane. So Russia and our adversaries, I think, have decided the way to engage with us in conflict is not through straight up old-school military but through cyber activities, misinformation and disinformation, increasingly trying to weaken and interfere, for example with our space communications, and I think Russia will up their game … and others … [It] means there will be more adversaries in 2020.

      Second is, I think in 2016 we saw Russia try to misrepresent—the Russian agents misrepresent themselves as Americans on Facebook and Twitter by simply posting fake messages. The next iteration, the next generation of that will be the so-called “deepfake” technology, where an American may not be able to view what his eyes are telling him, because you’ll see an image of you or me or a political figure that may sound like that person but isn’t that person at all.

      Now, if McConnell doesn’t allow some of these bills, like the Honest Ads Act or just broader election security bills, to come up, what do you think the Silicon Valley tech firms can do on their own?

      Look, we’ve seen progress made by Facebook, Twitter, some progress made by Google. But I don’t think self-regulation, particularly when a regulation may mean they may not be collecting as much information as they like, or self-regulation may mean they have to go against or limit some of the fake content. It goes against their very business model. So I think Facebook has made progress in particular, but some of the tools they have—for example, the ability to access on an easy basis the campaign ads that they promised, that tool is not effective at all.

      So at the end of the day, when we’re talking about something as critical as protecting the integrity of our democracy, when Americans lack faith in so many of our institutions to start with, if we don’t go the extra mile and put in place a set of rules and regulations—and god forbid should Russia or Iran or another foreign enterprise massively interfere again—and we didn’t do our duty, then shame on all of us.

      This week, two fairly senior Senate Democrats called for impeachment proceedings to begin. Where are you on that? We started this conversation with you saying you don’t want to relitigate 2016, but it seems like there’s this growing chorus amongst Democrats to impeach.

      I actually think Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi has navigated that challenge very well. I understand the frustrations with President Trump—his activities and tweets and antics. I think, though, the best way we can show that that’s not who we are as Americans is to defeat him at the ballot box in a free and fair election. And what I worry about is if we don’t guarantee that free and fair election, then we haven’t done our job.


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