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Clinton and Trump were both offered data from Facebook. Only one jumped at the chance.

Why did Hillary Clinton lose the election?

There are numerous reasons fair game for finger-pointing, but to truly leverage any of those elements required data and know-how. Russia clearly used both to help influence an election. They and others may have used that knowledge to spread fake news. 

One of the best catalysts for spreading the message — fake or otherwise — and reaching voters at the heart of their concerns was Facebook, which was right there with the campaigns, trying to help. But did one campaign accept more help than other other and, in doing so, help to sabotage their own presidential aspirations?

Reaching heartland voters on the topics they cared about, like infrastructure, required a Ph.D. in social media, data mechanics tools, and ad delivery. It’s in that last department — getting ads in front of the right eyeballs — where the Clinton campaign may have lost its edge, at least according to one member of the team that helped Donald Trump take the White House. 

Trump Campaign Digital Director Brad Parscale told 60 Minutes this week that when he emailed Facebook asking for “every single secret button, click, technology you have,” the social network agreed to send its staffers to sit with the Trump campaign advertising and data operation. This quality time reportedly happened as frequently as five days a week.

According to Parscale, the Clinton campaign was offered a similar set of embeds and turned them down.

In a single day, Parscale’s operation averaged 50,000-to-60,000 ads a day. He claims he was even able to choose the individual Facebook employees who would work with his operation based on whether they leaned Republican or Democrat. (He says he chose all Republicans, naturally.)

It was Parscale’s job to make the ads and figure out what was going to make people react, but his data game was certainly strengthened by Facebook employees who sat next to him explaining exactly how to use their tools to make that happen.

Facebook, however, disputes some of these claims. In an update to its Oct. 2 “Hard Questions: Russian Ads Delivered to Congress” post, Facebook says both campaigns were offered the same tools and they “had teams assigned to both.”

Parscale’s assertions to 60 Minutes that the Facebook employees worked with him full-time, and the more explosive claim that they let him hand-pick embeds by political affiliation, don’t hold up. From the post:

“The campaigns did not get to ‘hand pick’ the people who worked with them from Facebook. And no one from Facebook was assigned full-time to the Trump campaign, or full-time to the Clinton campaign. Both campaigns approached things differently and used different amounts of support.”

Facebook’s comments mirror those of Twitter, which offered similar help to both campaigns:

Twitter provides nonpartisan ad sales resources to advertisers around the world, helping them use our ad sales platform efficiently. In 2016 we offered such resources to both the Clinton and Trump campaigns, as well as gubernatorial and Senate races across both parties.” 

One thing is clear from Facebook’s response. One camp, either Trump or Clinton, didn’t take as much advantage of Facebook was offering. Based on what Parscale claims — and considering he’s already been caught in at least one possible lie, we have to take it all with a grain of salt — it wasn’t the Trump camp. His campaign sounded especially eager to tap into the power of Facebook’s ad-targeting tools.

What’s also unclear is the extent to which Facebook’s assistance actually helped.  

At least at the start of the campaign, Clinton and Trump were on a level playing field. Both campaigns had data operations. Clinton reportedly built her own.

“I was very proud of my data and analytics team. They were largely veterans of the Obama campaigns, ’08, ’12, and then we brought in new people and brought in a lot of new expertise to build the next generation,” she told Walt Mossberg at this year’s Code Conference.

In reality, however, her data game wasn’t nearly as strong as what was coming out of the Trump campaign. 

Clinton contends that Cambridge Analytica played a role here and essentially handed Trump’s team even more powerful data and personality-based targeting tools.

Clinton said she was aware that “the other side” had content farms and was using them to deliver “false content… in a very personalized way, both sort of above the radar and below.” She also knew that a lot of this false information and news about her was flowing through Facebook. 

Not helping matters was the Democratic National Committee, which was in bad shape. “I mean it was bankrupt, it was on the verge of insolvency, its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong,” she told Recode’s Walt Mossberg. And so there was no data operation for Clinton to inherit.

Suffice to say Clinton had no confidence in the DNC’s data game, and she was worried about the powerful Republican data operation and its potential to impact voters via platforms like Facebook. Did that spur her to lean on Facebook’s team as Parscale claims he did? There’s no clear answer here, and we may never know.

But if Clinton had won, it’s quite possible it would have been her digital director extolling the virtues of Facebook’s ad tools on 60 Minutes.

Parscale painted a compelling picture for 60 minutes of how good those Facebook tools are for crafting and recrafting messages until you trigger the right response. The same issue ad, for instance, could be served thousands of times with slightly different art, colors, text. It could also deliver ads focusing on different topics to people living next door to each other. Imagine the impact this might have on gerrymandered swing states where you can map an issue to align with known voting blocks (gerrymandering tends to group people of certain party affiliations and ideologies).

Clinton’s team probably didn’t take the same kind of advantage of those tools, but the disparity between Clinton and Trump’s approach in this area may have been one of degrees.

With so many factors at play and the scope of Russian interference in the election still being discovered, it’s hard to point to how Clinton campaign used or didn’t use Facebook embeds as a singular contributing factor in her loss, but it’s also hard to deny that it didn’t have some impact.

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Hurricane Nate becomes fourth hurricane to hit the U.S. in 6 weeks

Tourists run to avoid the rain as strong winds and heavy rain from Hurricane Nate begin to come ashore.
Tourists run to avoid the rain as strong winds and heavy rain from Hurricane Nate begin to come ashore.

Image: Sean Gardner/Getty ImagesGetty Images

Hurricane Nate is here.

The storm made its second landfall outside of Biloxi, Mississippi on Sunday morning. It’s the first hurricane to do so in that state since Hurricane Katrina, the Associated Press reports. 

Nate landed at the mouth of the Mississippi River with 85 mph winds and made its way across Mississippi and Alabama.

President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration for Hurricane Nate in Mississippi. 

Jim Cantore is a broadcast metereologist who was there for the early hours of the storm Saturday evening: 

Mike Theiss, a professional storm chaser, took footage of a parking garage and other areas in Mississippi flooding Sunday morning: 

Another meteorologist, Mike Seidel, recorded a video of the high winds in Mississippi: 

Nate weakened from a Category 2 hurricane to a tropical storm as it moved inland across Mississippi and Alabama Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

CBS News correspondent David Begnaud recorded video of intense rainfall in Alabama: 

More than 71,000 people near Mobile, Alabama were affected by power outages during the storm, according to Alabama Power.

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Zuckerberg’s non-statement on Trump and fake news is a total cop out

Not enough.
Not enough.

Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg issued a statement Wednesday addressing President Donald Trump, fake news, and his company’s controversial role in the 2016 presidential election. And, perhaps unsurprisingly coming from a man whose idea of connecting with reality is a carefully managed 50-state photo op, his words were polished to the point of meaninglessness. 

Zuck was responding to a rambling presidential tweet that both maligned the social network-turned-advertising company and insisted it’s “anti-Trump.” Possibly sensing an opportunity to garner some public goodwill, the best dressed man in Silicon Valley assured his 96 million followers that, nah, he’s doing his very best to be fair and balanced. And that he’s trying. Like, really hard. 

“Every day I work to bring people together and build a community for everyone,” he wrote while clearly channeling a high school vice principal struggling to understand why his students have turned against him. “We hope to give all people a voice and create a platform for all ideas.”

That some of those people just happened to find employment in a Russian government-linked “troll farm” that, according to his own chief security officer, “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum”? Well, shucks. Mark sure is sorry.

And he’s doubly sorry that he hadn’t taken the issue of intentionally spread misinformation affecting the 2016 election seriously before now.  

“After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea,” continued Zuckerberg. “Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it. This is too important an issue to be dismissive.”

Finally, the Boy King of Tech admits fault. But, lest you think this is the start of a new, self-reflective Mark, he quickly walked back that regret.  

“But the data we have has always shown that our broader impact — from giving people a voice to enabling candidates to communicate directly to helping millions of people vote — played a far bigger role in this election.”

So there you have it. Zuckerberg is sorry that following the 2016 presidential election he was publicly dismissive of so-called fake news, but doesn’t seem all that remorseful for profiting off that very thing. What’s more, according to the Wise One, Facebook did more to benefit the electoral process than harm it. So, you know, you should be thankful for the role Facebook played in our civic discourse. 

It’s a total cop out non-statement, and delivered in a style that Zuckerberg has clearly perfected. Good thing, too, as he’s going to need those verbal bullshit skills come 2020. While Zuck is busy patting himself on the back for finally admitting a reality heretofore obvious to everyone but him, it’s the rest of us that are left holding the bag.

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Mark Zuckerberg responds to Trump’s claim that ‘Facebook has always been against him’


What a country some of us live in. Earlier this morning, President Donald Trump said Facebook  “was always anti-Trump.” Now, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has responded, posting on Facebook that the point of Facebook is to “give all people a voice and create a platform for all ideas.” He also said he regretted dismissing the idea that fake news on Facebook changed the outcome of the election.

After the results came out, a lot of people pointed the finger at Facebook, saying all of the fake news on Facebook led to Trump’s election. At the time, Zuckerberg dismissed the idea that fake news led to his election. He feels differently now.

“Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it,” Zuckerberg wrote. “This is too important of an issue to be dismissive. But the data we have has always shown that our broader impact — from giving people a voice to enabling candidates to communicate directly to helping millions of people vote — played a far bigger role in this election.”

In his post today, Zuckerberg also wrote that while Trump says Facebook is against him, on the other side, liberals are saying Facebook helped Trump.

“Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like,” Zuckerberg wrote. “That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like.”

During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Zuckerberg notes the billions of interactions around politics that happened on Facebook, how candidates were able to use Facebook to interact with their followers and how Facebook ran “get out the vote” campaigns, which Zuckerberg says resulted in as many as 2 million people registering to vote.

Here’s Zuck’s post:

I want to respond to President Trump’s tweet this morning claiming Facebook has always been against him.

Every day I work to bring people together and build a community for everyone. We hope to give all people a voice and create a platform for all ideas.

Trump says Facebook is against him. Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like. That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like.

The facts suggest the greatest role Facebook played in the 2016 election was different from what most are saying:

– More people had a voice in this election than ever before. There were billions of interactions discussing the issues that may have never happened offline. Every topic was discussed, not just what the media covered.

– This was the first US election where the internet was a primary way candidates communicated. Every candidate had a Facebook page to communicate directly with tens of millions of followers every day.

– Campaigns spent hundreds of millions advertising online to get their messages out even further. That’s 1000x more than any problematic ads we’ve found.

– We ran “get out the vote” efforts that helped as many as 2 million people register to vote. To put that in perspective, that’s bigger than the get out the vote efforts of the Trump and Clinton campaigns put together. That’s a big deal.

After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it. This is too important an issue to be dismissive. But the data we have has always shown that our broader impact — from giving people a voice to enabling candidates to communicate directly to helping millions of people vote — played a far bigger role in this election.

We will continue to work to build a community for all people. We will do our part to defend against nation states attempting to spread misinformation and subvert elections. We’ll keep working to ensure the integrity of free and fair elections around the world, and to ensure our community is a platform for all ideas and force for good in democracy.

Featured Image: Facebook

Trump calls Facebook “anti-Trump” so it goes soft on him


Trump may have found a way to tie Facebook’s hands as it investigates Russian interference into the election.

Without citing any evidence or even a reason, Donald Trump today declared that “Facebook was always anti-Trump”. That’s despite Trump’s campaign heavily relying on targeted Facebook ads during the election to rally citizens sympathetic to his brand of nationalism.

This morning Trump tweeted, “Facebook was always anti-Trump. The Networks were always anti-Trump hence, Fake News, @nytimes (apologized) & @WaPo were anti-Trump. Collusion? ..But the people were Pro-Trump! Virtually no President has accomplished what we have accomplished in the first 9 months-and economy roaring”.

Despite the claim, Facebook’s share price is still up 1.35% today, showing investors don’t believe the tweet foreshadows Trump meddling with Facebook’s business.

[Update: Mark Zuckerberg has responded to Trump’s tweet, writing “Trump says Facebook is against him. Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like. That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like.” Zuckerberg went on to describe how Facebook’s impact on the election was more about giving everyone including the candidates a voice than malicious interference or bias.]

From one angle, though, Trump might be right. Facebook is led by liberals who support immigrants and refugees, the LGBT community, and equal rights for women and muslims — all of which Trump has railed against.

“I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and slowing immigration” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at Facebook’s April 2016 F8 developer conference. He advocated that the country “Instead of building walls, build bridges. And instead of dividing people, we can help bring people together.” Zuckerberg has also directly spoken out against Trump’s moves against Dreamers who immigrated to the US as children, and his push for a transgender troop ban.

I attended then-President Barack Obama’s townhall at Facebook HQ in 2011, and it was clear that the employee section enthusiastically whooped it up for Democrat policies and grumbled when Obama and Zuckerberg discussed the Republican agenda.

Zuckerberg leads a town hall meeting at Facebook’s headquarters with President Obama in 2011

Yet on the other side, Facebook has purposefully tried to avoid seeming biased against conservatives. Anonymous reports to Gizmodo claimed that Facebook’s Trending news team purposefully suppressed conseverative news outlets.

While Facebook’s internal investigation supposedly found no evidence of this, it made stiff changes to how Trends were surfaced, and moved to a mostly algorithm-driven system to reduce the potential human bias. It also met with conservative news outlets to promise them a balanced platform.

Some believe this scandal is what led Facebook to be soft in its initial response to fake news during the election, as this content was more commonly pushed by right wing new media sources. Gizmodo reported that Facebook shelved an anti-fake news update to its News Feed during the election for fear of provoking Republican backlash against the platform. That could both endanger Facebook’s ad-driven business model, but also could have pushed conservatives off the social network, worsening the polarization of the country.

In the end, Facebook was blamed for allowing fake news to proliferate in ways that might have assisted Trump’s election victory.

And so, here we may find a rationale for Trump’s criticism of Facebook today. If he can embolden critics who say Facebook leans left, the company may be less aggressive in tackling fake news and its on-going investigation into Russian interference in the election. It could also deter Facebook from potentially penalizing or blocking Trump’s Facebook account for distributing hate or threats more , as many have called on Twitter to do.

Facebook today outlined 11 tactics it used to thwart interference in the Germany federal election. But it could encounter resistance from Trump’s followers for trying to implement these in the U.S.

As long as Facebook must actively combat the perception that it’s anti-Trump, it may have to act more pro-Trump, or at least neutral in the face of his incendiary actions.

Featured Image: Source: Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency + David Ramos/Getty Images