Welcome to November. Tuesday was day one of long-anticipated Congressional hearings with representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Russia’s presence on the social platforms as it attempted to influence the 2016 election is now well established, and the testimony confirmed that. What still isn’t clear is what impact the attempts actually had.
The platforms confirmed leaked information concerning the extent of attempted Russian influence via ads. Facebook estimated Russian-bought ads were delivered to 126 million people on Facebook; Twitter estimated 131,000 messages; and Google 1,000 YouTube videos.
As for actual impact, the platforms downplayed the reach as a small fraction of their overall ecosystem. But as Mathew Ingram writes for CJR, “The Russian ads in question are not the result of some kind of misunderstanding by regulators or critics of how the social network operates, nor are they the result of a software bug that produced unintended consequences. Instead, the ads are an example of the company’s social machinery working exactly as it was meant to.”