No evidence of RT manipulating YouTube during US election – Google

Google says it found no evidence that RT manipulated video hosting platform YouTube or violated its policies during the 2016 US election campaign. It comes amid a frenzy in the US over alleged Russian meddling in the election and RT’s coverage in particular.

On Monday, Richard Salgado, Google’s director for law enforcement and information security, shared the results of the company’s investigation into how Google products may have been misused to affect the election. The two-page report falls far short of revealing the smoking gun that some commentators were hoping for.

 
© Dado Ruvic

Google identified two accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian-based NGO accused by some US media reports of being a Russian government “troll bot factory.” The accounts spent a total of $4,700 on Google platforms during the 2016 election cycle on search and display ads, the report said. The ads were not targeted at specific groups based on geography or political preferences.

On YouTube, Google found 18 channels “likely associated” with the campaign that published videos in English and “with content that appeared to be political,” but not exclusively so. The channels uploaded 1,108 such videos representing 43 hours of content and totaling 309,000 US views from June 2015 to November 2016, the report said, noting that a single user may generate multiple views on a single video. Only 3 percent of the videos generated more than 5,000 views, Google said. Neither channel was targeted at the US or any particular part of the US public. The company has suspended the channels in question.

The report also specifically mentioned the use of YouTube by RT, which remains the most-viewed international news network on the platform. “Some have raised questions about the use of YouTube by RT, a media service funded by the Russian government,” the document said. “Our investigation found no evidence of manipulation of our platform or policy violations; RT—and all other state-sponsored media outlets— remains subject to our standard rules.”

Commenting on Google’s report, RT’s Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said: “As they said in school, QED [Latin: quod erat demonstrandum, English: ‘what was to be shown].”

Earlier, microblogging website Twitter banned the accounts of RT and another Russian news outlet, Sputnik, from using the service’s advertising mechanism. RT criticized the news, saying it was inconsistent with the US-based company’s multimillion-dollar offer of an exclusive ad campaign on Twitter to raise the news outlet’s presence during the 2016 election.

 
© Sputnik

Russian officials say RT is being targeted as part of a general anti-Russian “witch-hunt” in the US. Moscow denies any interference in the US election and says it was drawn into partisan strife in America that has nothing to do with Russia.

Executives from Google, Facebook and Twitter are expected to testify before the US Senate Judiciary Committee's panel on Crime and Terrorism on Wednesday, with more hearings scheduled with other Senate and House committees. The tech giants are to report to lawmakers on the results of their internal investigations into alleged use of their online services by the Russian government to influence the US election campaign.

Leaks from Facebook and Twitter testimonies reported this week imply that the scale of such alleged actions, as identified by the companies, was very small.

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Facebook scours $150k 'divisive ads' for links to Russia amid US election meddling claims

Facebook has targeted Russia in a review of ad purchases, searching for those which originated in Russia or used the Russian language from an IP address in the US - even though the ads "didn't necessarily violate any policy or law."

The social network released a statement on Wednesday, addressing claims that Russia had interfered in the US presidential election.

"There have been a lot of questions since the 2016 US election about Russian interference in the electoral process..." the site wrote.

 
© Heinz-Peter Bader

 

"One question that has emerged is whether there's a connection between Russian efforts and ads purchased on Facebook. These are serious claims and we've been reviewing a range of activity on our platform to help understand what happened."

Facebook claims that its review found that approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June 2015 to May 2017 – associated with roughly 3,000 ads – was "connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and pages in violation of our policies."

It goes on to accuse Russia of being behind the "inauthentic accounts," stating that the analysis suggests the "accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia."

Following the analysis, the site shut down the accounts and pages that were still active, Facebook said, stressing that "we don't allow inauthentic accounts on Facebook."

However, the statement admits that the "vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn't specifically reference the US presidential election, voting, or a particular candidate."

Still, Facebook manages to perceive a connection: the ads, it says, focus on "amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum - touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights."

READ MORE: ‘No doubt’ US will try to meddle in 2018 Russian presidential election – foreign ministry

An unnamed Facebook employee went as far as to mention unspecified connections between the ads and something known as a "troll factory" in St. Petersburg, often mentioned by Western mainstream media as the source of Russian "propaganda" on social media.

Facebook's hunt for Russian misbehavior doesn't stop at "inauthentic ads." It also casts a wide net for legitimate ads originating in Russia – or even "those with very weak signals of a connection and not associated with any known organized effort."

 
© MIDRussia

 

That connection could be as tentative as language settings on the accounts that bought the ads: those with American IP addresses but set to Russian language, even though they "didn't necessarily violate any policy or law."

"In this part of our review, we found approximately $50,000 in potentially politically related ad spending on roughly 2,200 ads," the statement reads.

While admitting that its findings include ads which are perfectly legitimate both under federal law and its own guidelines, Facebook still shared the information "with US authorities investigating these issues."

It also briefed members of the Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees on Wednesday about the suspected Russian advertising, Reuters reported, citing a congressional source familiar with the matter. Both committees are hunting for evidence of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including potential collusion between Moscow and Donald Trump's campaign.

Facebook also reportedly delivered its findings to Robert Mueller, the special counsel in charge of investigating the alleged Russian interference, a source told Reuters.

The social network's latest statement comes after Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, met with Facebook officials in July as part of the committee's investigation into Russia's alleged election interference. 

Meanwhile, there remains a complete lack of evidence that Russia interfered in the US presidential election or colluded with President Trump in any way - a point that has been reiterated numerous times by the US president himself.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called claims of Russian meddling "nonsense," and has accused the US of repeatedly interfering in Moscow's politics, "especially aggressively" in the 2012 presidential elections.

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Anti-Russia spin pushed by those who lost US election & can't face reality – Putin to Le Figaro

A powerful bureaucracy is preventing US presidents from making changes, Vladimir Putin told Le Figaro, saying he’s not surprised Donald Trump hasn’t restored relations with Moscow amid a power struggle – just as Obama failed to shut down Guantanamo.

Despite early signals from the Trump administration that it would not mind improving relations with Russia, which seemed to hit rock bottom during the last months of the Obama presidency, Moscow “had no special expectations” with regards to the new US President Trump, the Russian leader said in an interview to be published in full Wednesday.

READ FULL VERSION of Putin’s interview

 
Russian President Vladimir Putin © Sergey Guneev

While US presidents “come and go,” its political landscape is hardly prone to changes, Putin said, noting that the incumbent US leader “is steering a traditional US policy.”

This political invariability can be ascribed to the sprawling US bureaucratic machine, which imposes rigid constraints on every neophyte leader as soon as he rises to power, Putin argued.

“When a person is elected, they may have some ideas. Then people with briefcases arrive, well dressed, wearing dark suits… These people start explaining how things are done. And instantly, everything changes,” Putin elaborated, noting that no administration is able to escape this trap, which significantly narrows its room for maneuver.

READ MORE: ‘Reading US papers is dangerous’: Moscow ridicules report that Trump shared secrets with Russian FM

Putin argued that former US President Obama also fell victim to the system as he was not able to deliver on his pre-election promise to close the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison. Describing Obama as a “forward-thinking man,” Putin said that he has no doubt that Obama genuinely wanted to follow through his pledge, but failed even though the controversial Cuban prison was known primarily for torture and a practice of unlawful detentions.

“Can you imagine France or Russia acting this way? This would have been a disaster. But it is possible in the United States and continues to this day,” Putin said, referring to widespread and well-documented human rights abuses in the prison.

The Russian president said Moscow still hopes for a political normalization with Washington, but is in “no hurry” and “ready to wait” until the anti-Russian hysteria, fueled by the defeated party which seeks to shift the blame for its own loss on Russia, subsides.

“That said, I am cautiously optimistic, and I think that we can and should be able to reach agreements on key issues,” he said.

Criticizing the increase in NATO military spending and its build-up on Russia’s doorstep, Putin nevertheless noted that Trump showed a “pragmatic and understandable approach” when he demanded from other NATO member states to share the financial burden of common defense with the US.

READ MORE: ‘Turn for the worse’: Russian envoy blasts NATO’s latest steps in Europe

 
The West Wing White House in Washington, US © Jonathan Ernst

Dismissing allegations of Russian meddling in the US and French presidential elections, Putin argued that claims that Moscow was behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee emails have not been supported by evidence. He added that it does not take much effort to cover up the source of the attack for the purpose of making Moscow a scapegoat.

“As President Trump once said, and I think that he was totally right when he said it could have been someone sitting on their bed or somebody intentionally inserted a flash drive with the name of a Russian national, or something like that,” Putin said.

The Russian leader believes that essence of the problem lies not in the Moscow’s perceived interference in the electoral process, but in the unwillingness of those who were stunned by the defeat in the November elections to take responsibility for their poor performance.

READ MORE: Fox News host speaks Russian on air in outburst to ‘potential Russian overlords’

“They are absolutely reluctant to admit this, and prefer deluding themselves and others into thinking it was not their fault, that their policy was correct, they did all the right things, but someone from the outside thwarted them. But it was not so. They just lost and they have to admit it,” Putin said.

Apparently, Trump turned out to be “closer to the people and better understood what ordinary voters want,” Putin said, suggesting that the Democrats need to put up with the fact and adding that when those drop this mindset “it will be easier for us to work [with the US].”

While there is no timeline for when such a turnaround will happen, Putin believes that this phase in US-Russia relations, during which Russia is being dragged into US internal policy, is temporary.

“The fact that this is being done using anti-Russia tools is not good, as it brings discord into international affairs,” Putin said. “But it will pass, everything passes, and this will pass as well.”

READ MORE: Lavrov: Trump admin are business people, dialogue free from ideological bias

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‘Like McCarthyism’: Lavrov slams US ‘witch hunt-like’ scrutiny of Russian ambassador’s contacts

With Russian Ambassador to the USA Sergey Kislyak’s contacts with members of the Trump administration under scrutiny, Moscow won’t apply a tit-for-tat approach to US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov promised.

Lavrov said the whole situation resembled the days of McCarthyism.

 

Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. © AFP

Kislyak recently found himself under the US media spotlight with reports of his communications, first with former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and then with Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.

After Wednesday reports saying Sessions had met Kislyak twice in 2016, but did not disclose the contacts during his Senate confirmation testimony, a CNN article said that “current and former US intelligence officials have described Kislyak as a top spy and recruiter of spies.” 

According to Lavrov, the situation developing around Kislyak and his contacts is reminiscent of “witch hunt.”

@realDonaldTrump ...is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total "witch hunt!"

“I can refer to a quote spread in the media today: all of this looks very much like a witch hunt or the days of McCarthyism, which we long thought have passed in the US, a civilized country," Lavrov said.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump described the scandal around Sessions as “a total witch hunt.”

READ MORE: ‘Stop spreading lies & fake news,’ Russian FM spokeswoman tells CNN reporter

“Kislyak is accused of talking to American politicians who were in opposition to the administration of then-President Barack Obama,” Lavrov said. “That is the essence of these accusations, to be honest.”

“We don't want to and we won’t ape” the American approach towards Kislyak, Lavrov said.

“If such a principle has been applied to scrutinize activity of John Tefft and his contacts, we could see quite an ‘amusing’ picture,” Lavrov said.

The minister noted that ambassadors are appointed to maintain relations with the host country.

“Relationships are maintained in the form of meetings, talks, contacts with both executive officials [from the current administration] and with politicians, public figures, non-governmental organizations. This practice has never been disputed,” Lavrov said.

READ MORE: Sessions recuses himself from Trump probes, rejects perjury claims

 

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes © Chip Somodevilla

Lavrov’s statement comes in response to the uproar in the US over a report in the Washington Post claiming that Sessions spoke to Kislyak twice in 2016. The report prompted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to demand Sessions’ resignation for “lying under oath” during the hearings.

Sessions denied any wrongdoing in meeting with the Russian ambassador, saying the two brief encounters had nothing to do with the presidential campaign. He recused himself from any investigations into the campaign, however.

The attorney-general is not the first official in the Trump administration who faces allegations of having contacts with Russian officials. Earlier, Flynn stepped down as national security advisor after being accused by the media of discussing sanctions on Russia with Kislyak. Both he and the Russian Embassy denied the discussion ever took place.

On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he is unaware of any such talks between Sessions and Kislyak, adding that establishing working contacts with host nation’s executive and legislative branches is an inherent part of an ambassador’s job.

“The more such meetings are being held by an ambassador, the more efficient he is. And this applies to every ambassador,” Peskov stressed, adding that Tefft “has plenty of contacts with Russian MPs and it is quite normal.”

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Trump Reiterates Allegations about U.S. Election Fraud

The United States President Donald Trump maintains today his claim that millions of people voted illegally in the November 8 election when he beat Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton.

You see the undocumented people, the people who are not citizens and are in the registers, you take a look at the registrations and there are even dead people registered. It is really a bad situation, stated the president during an interview that will be broadcast tonight on Fox News.

Although Trump won the election due to the votes of the Electoral College, the Republican received fewer popular votes than Clinton, a fact that he attributed precisely to millions of illegal ballots.

In the excerpts of the interview published today, TV presenter Bill O'Reilly told the president that he needs data to support his statement, because so far the White House has not released figures on the matter.

Trump threatened last month to launch a major investigation into the alleged fraud in order to strengthen voting procedures, but no details were provided later on.

Media reports indicated that the head of State was to sign an executive order to carry out the inquiry, but the signing was abruptly canceled and was never rescheduled.

A senior administration official told CNN that the investigation is no longer a priority for the president, and although he insisted that it was not off the table, he said it was not expected in a short term.

  • Published in Now

New Poll Shows Tie Between Clinton and Trump

Less than a week before the US election polls poorly define picture, when one of them speaks today of a tie between Republican, Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

According to a survey by Washington Post-ABC News conducted from October 28 to 31 and broadcast on Wednesday, each candidate has the support of 46 percent of likely voters.

A similar study released yesterday gave one-point lead to the billionaire, while since more than a week ago Clinton was ahead with two- digit difference, which shows the ground gained by the tycoon in recent days.

The survey conducted among 1,182 likely voters also showed that 46 percent of respondents considered the Republican more honest and trustworthy, versus 38 percent who chose their opponent; one month ago they appeared tied in that section.

The new numbers are recorded a few days after the FBI Director James Comey, send a letter to the House of Representatives to announce the reopening of the investigation on the use that Clinton made of a private e-mail server.

Such news aroused the rejection of the democratic formation and even supporters of Trump, by considering that they are seeking to influence the outcome of November 8 elections.

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'What planet is she on?': Clinton adviser mocks Hillary in latest #PodestaEmails

WikiLeaks has released its 12th batch of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta. This brings the total number of emails released to date to almost 19,000.
 

The whistleblowing website has previously stated that there are around 50,000 emails in total, with previous leaks exposing the Clinton campaign’s cozy relationship with the media, its efforts to stop former Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders making the White House and the long-awaited speeches Clinton gave to Goldman Sachs.

RELEASE: The Podesta Emails Part 12

Tuesday’s release included a list of potential vice presidential picks, categorized by race and gender, opposition research on Trump, and staffers describing Sanders as a “doofus” and saying they “f*cking hate” potential Democratic nominee Larry Lessig.

@RT_America 'Doofus Bernie': reveal more contempt for http://on.rt.com/7s7s

What planet?

Clinton’s description of herself as a moderate Democrat at a September 2015 event in Ohio causes some uproar amongst her team. In a mail from adviser Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, to Podesta in the days following the comment she asks why she said this.

“I pushed her on this on Sunday night. She claims she didn't remember saying it. Not sure I believe her,” Podesta replies. Tanden insists that the comment has made her job more difficult after “telling every reporter I know she's actually progressive”.

“It worries me more that she doesn't seem to know what planet we are all living in at the moment,” she adds.

Hillary's dicey territory

Emails between Clinton’s foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan and Tanden from March 2016 discussed how it was “REALLY dicey territory” for Clinton to comment on strengthening “bribery laws to ensure that politicians don’t change legislation for political donations.”

Tanden agrees with Sullivan, “She may be so tainted she's really vulnerable = if so, maybe a message of I've seen how this sausage is made, it needs to stop, I'm going to stop it will actually work.”

The server scandal

A September 2015 email exchange between Podesta and Nick Merrill provided “core language” to be used in response to questions Clinton could be asked about her email server, and the decision to “bleach” emails from it. 

The emails contain long and short versions of responses for Clinton. 

“Because the government already had everything that was work-related, and my personal emails were just that –  personal – I didn’t see a reason to keep them so I asked that they be deleted, and that’s what the company that managed my server did. And we notified Congress of that back in March,” the mail reads.

Another answer is provided for the question, “Why won’t you say whether you wiped it?”

“After we went through the process to determine what was work related and what was not and provided the work related emails to State, I decided not to keep the personal ones,” the response reads.

“We saved the work-related ones on a thumb drive that is now with the Department of Justice. And as I said in March, I chose not to keep the personal ones. I asked that they be deleted, how that happened was up to the company that managed the server. And they are cooperating fully with anyone that has questions.”

READ MORE: Top State Dept official accused of offering FBI ‘quid pro quo’ to declassify Clinton emails

Comcast-owned NBC dismissed Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state as unimportant in a mail dated September 27, 2015.

John Harwood, the chief Washington correspondent for CNBC tells Podesta how he believes it is “amazing” that “some people still think it's worth burning so much interview time with person most likely to be next president on her emails”.

The mail was sent to Podesta a day after the US Defense Department announced that it had discovered an email chain that Clinton had not handed over, despite claiming to have provided it with all of her work emails.

Make love to Bernie

In a September 2015 email to Podesta, Hill columnist Brent Budowsky criticized the campaign for allegedly giving Clinton surrogates talking points to attack Bernie Sanders.

“I cannot think of anything more stupid and self-destructive for a campaign to do,” he says. “Especially for a candidate who has dangerously low levels of public trust,” and in light of Sanders’ campaign being based on “cleaning up politics.”

Budowsky warns voters would be “disgusted” by attacks against Sanders and says he wouldn’t discourage Podesta from sharing the note with Clinton because “if she wants to become president she needs to understand the point I am making with crystal clarity.”

"Make love to Bernie and his idealistic supporters, and co-opt as many of his progressive issues as possible," suggests Budowsky.

Budowsky also adds that he was at a Washington university where “not one student gave enough of a damn for Hillary to open a booth, or even wear a Hillary button.”

He then goes on to volunteer to write talking points himself.

Some media pointers

In a separate email exchange from June 30, 2015, Budowsky contacted Podesta regarding a piece he wrote which he describes as being “positive” and “carefully written” to aid Clinton’s campaign.

“John, I have only 1 mention of HRC, positive, carefully written, and designed to give her some cover with liberals,” Budowsky writes.

What will she say next?

Clinton's words have to be tightly managed by her team who are wary of what she might say, one email revealed. After the Iowa Democratic Party’s presidential debate in November 2015 adviser Ron Klain mails Podesta to say, “If she says something three times as an aside during practice (Wall Street supports me due to 9/11), we need to assume she will say it in the debate, and tell her not to do so.”

Klain’s mail reveals Sanders was their biggest fear in the debate. “The only thing that would have been awful – a Sanders break out – didn't happen. So all in all, we were fine,” he says.

The mail also reveals Klain’s role in securing his daughter Hannah a position on Clinton’s team. “I’m not asking anyone to make a job, or put her in some place where she isn't wanted – it just needs a nudge over the finish line,” Klain says.

Hannah Klain worked on Clinton’s Surrogates team for nine months commencing in the month after her father’s mail to Podesta, according to her Linkedin.

Covering all bases

A November 2008 email from Federico Peña, who was on the Obama-Biden transition team, called for a “Latino media person” to be added to the list of staff to appeal to Latino voters. Federico de Jesus or Vince Casillas are seen as ideal candidates, both of whom were working in the Chicago operations.

“More importantly, it would helpful (sic) to Barack to do pro-active outreach to Latino media across the country to get our positive message out before people start spreading negative rumors,” Peña writes.

Embarrassing brothers

A May 2015 email between Podesta and Tanden appears to imply Clinton’s brothers are a source of embarrassment for the campaign.

In an email titled, ‘Glad you said no’ Tanden writes, “When H asked us to hire her old friend,” and Podesta replies, “Yup. Maybe we can rent the Queen Mary for the next 18 months and fill it with her brothers and assorted crazy hangers on sail around and around.”

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