TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -On Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee briefed the public on the ongoing investigation into the alleged Russian meddling in the US election. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, advocated new restrictions on online ads. According to a proposed bill, the ads purchased by “foreign entities,” such as Russia, would be labeled as such to “protect” Americans from outside interference.
“If you see an ad on a social media site, Americans should know whether the source of that ad was a foreign entity,” Warner said.
Black believes that the whole issue with Russia-linked Facebook ads is blown out of proportion, arguing that the amount purchased could not influence the campaign in any case.
“When they are talking about social ads, they are talking about a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of ads – that is a drop in a bucket, I mean that’s like throwing a small pebble into the Atlantic Ocean. You’re not going to affect anything with a hundred thousand dollars in ads,” Black told RT.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s own acknowledgement that the ads were not directly promoting either of the candidates, but “sort of aimed at various people” did not give the accusations against Russia any credibility, he pointed out.
The mere fact that the ads were paid for in Russian rubles cannot serve as compelling evidence of Moscow’s involvement, as they could be just as well purchased by Americans living in Russia, for instance.
“There are plenty of American citizens who are residents of Russia right now who may have just sat down and said: 'You know I’m going to push something out, I’m going to buy Facebook ads and I’m going to spend a few thousand dollars to do it – I’m going to go after Clinton or I’m going to go after Trump.'
“So, the fact that there happen to be ads purchased in rubles tells me absolutely nothing,” Black said.
The fact that nine months into the probe the committee has not come to any definite conclusions and has so far to present any findings, points to the lack of any evidence of collusion between Moscow and the current US administration, Black said, calling the speech by Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr and Senator Mark Warner the “most vacuous interview I have ever heard.”
“They have not found any evidence of President Trump or his administration colluding and so they felt the need to sort of come up with something that is anti-Russian,” Black said, adding that he believes that the committee “is designed with an express purpose of undermining the President.”
“The whole plan is farcical,” he added.
After Facebook turned over some 3,400 ads the social media giant said are linked to some fake pages “affiliated with one another” and “likely operated out of Russia,” the focus of the Senate probe shifted to the role of social media.
The ads were purchased in the period from June 2015 to May 2017 and, according to Facebook’s analysis did not endorse either of the candidates but were aimed at “amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum.”
This week, Facebook reported that the majority of the ads, 56 percent, were displayed after the election. Some 10 million American voters are estimated to have been exposed to the ads.
‘Russian’ Facebook ads ‘absolute joke compared to US operations internationally’
The perceived impact of the Russia-linked Facebook ads cannot stand any comparison with the millions of dollars spent by lobbies and by Washington itself to interfere in other countries’ affairs, former US intelligence officer Scott Rickard told RT.
“Compared to the millions upon millions of dollars if not tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars that's spent by AIPAC [The American Israel Public Affairs Committee], or that was spent by Open Society Foundation in Ukraine in the overthrow and the corruption and chaos in Maidan,” the alleged $100,000-worth of ads are “absolutely a joke,” Rickard said.
If there can be talk about collusion that might undermine the integrity of the US election, it should be about the apparent collusion between Google, Facebook and the Democratic Party, he argued, labelling the search engine and the social media giant “absolutely left-wing organizations.”
“Google started New America Foundation, it is a think-tank in Washington, DC, that has tremendous influence on the left-wing side of the intelligence community,” he said, arguing that both companies are owned by the Democrats “lock, stock and barrel.”
Rickard went on to note he believes that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe will bear no fruit, as it is only needed “to push an agenda that is incredibly anti-Russia.”
“It’s going to be dragged out and in the end what we’ll find is that yes, some ads were purchased, and, yes, some means were hacked, but certainly no impact on American election,” he said.