back to article Facebook, Twitter slammed for deleting evidence of Russia's US election mischief

Facebook and Twitter have come under attack for deleting tens of thousands of posts that may provide vital clues to how and to what extent the Russian government was able to able to influence the US presidential elections. Facebook has removed thousands of Facebook posts – and the related data around them such as "likes" and …

  1. LDS Silver badge

    So we eventually found a way to ensure our data are thoroughly deleted from social networks?

    Tell Facebook & C. those data were foreign propaganda that will bring 'em troubles?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: It's amateurish, at the very least:

        It's further support for the "fact" that any interference with the election that resulted in Trump winning must be "Fake News" while they maintain (without any evidence at all) that Hillary was hacking the election.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: So we eventually found a way to ensure our data are thoroughly deleted from social networks?

      Yeah, that struck me as odd too. The biggest complaint about most companies who collect data is that it's nigh on impossible to get it deleted when not required or corrected if in error, even in those countries which have actual privacy laws. Now the complaint is that no longer needed or no longer valid data is being deleted.

      And why can't they just get the data from the NSA backup bitbarn?

  2. Flakk
    Trollface

    Huh

    So I guess it is possible to rapidly find and delete data from cloud-based systems after all.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not the Russians and that is about as far as I'm going to take this comment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Go on then, I'm going to expand my comment.

      Who has gained the most and who will continue to gain the most under the Trump regime?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    obligatory 1984 quote

    The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth

    1. Shades
      Trollface

      Re: obligatory 1984 quote

      Forgotten? They released an album in May of this year, they're still going.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: obligatory 1984 quote

        "Forgotten? They released an album in May of this year, they're still going."

        I thought they were all dead.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: obligatory 1984 quote

          "I thought they were all dead."

          No, it was just an MS-DOS erasure. Change the lead character so the system thinks it's erased. So long as you don't play the albums, you can easily un-erasure it. And just in case, there's always a backup in case the BBC have DBanned it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: obligatory 1984 quote

        They released an album in May of this year, they're still going.

        Are you right?

        Are you wrong?

        Or are you just dreaming?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    #LockThemUp etc..

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Facebook has removed thousands of posts"...

    "– and the related data around them such as likes and shares"...

    Convenient that Facebook claim they can't undo this. Its telling because Facebook regularly undelete posts of mine going back 7 years. See here:

    https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2017/09/11/facebook_fined_12m_by_spain/#c_3285816

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Facebook has removed thousands of posts"...

      But it is true, if you include the missing word from their sentences...

      "We cannot [economically] delete your data".

      Thus anything risking their cash cow, will get deleted... making it available to everyone? Too much cost involved.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: "Facebook has removed thousands of posts"...

      even though YOUR posts were miraculously "un-deleted", the alleged "evidence of Russian meddling" and any OTHER collusion will conveniently *disappear*. Into the bit bucket they go!

      This has 2 effects:

      a) give the "russian collusion" independent investigators more ammo to keep digging [eventually to find something to use against Trump in the next election, or even sooner, they hope] in their FISHING EXPEDITION, and

      b) help them perpetuate the "Russia, Russia, Russia" narrative. indefinitely.

      But what if there was NOTHING TO FIND in the FIRST place?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook 'Pwns' Regulator Once Again

    Sometimes I wonder how we got here. Then I re-read this Yuck Zuk:

    https://qz.com/993995/how-facebooks-fb-sheryl-sandberg-personally-lobbied-irish-prime-minister-enda-kenny-as-shown-by-2014-emails-published-in-the-irish-independent/

    https://qz.com/162791/how-a-bureaucrat-in-a-struggling-country-at-the-edge-of-europe-found-himself-safeguarding-the-worlds-data/

  8. shawnfromnh

    My guess would be what I read is that the russian ads were almost totally for Hillary and Black Lives Matter and that would be a kink in the liberal narrative. I hope they don't put to much stock in those house reps since steve bannon is pushing to remove all rino's from the house and senate and give a big push to replace the democrats also. Now when the news gets around about the Awan brothers working for the house democrats and then transferring terabytes of information over to Pakistan and then Paul Ryan putting the hush on the incident there will be hell to pay on election time for the house democrats if DWS isn't already in jail for that found laptop that will surely have some evidence wikileaks would drool over having but the fact these guys were given access to top secret material and probably stole a lot if not everything they found. It's going to be an interesting 2018 for sure in the US.

  9. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Alien

    AAAHHH MOTHERLAND!!!!!

    Why does Kieren keep serving this US meedja bullshit? Is is just an obsession? Is it age-related cognitive dysfunction? Or is to actually and honestly ATTRACT CLICKS?

    Facebook has removed thousands of Facebook posts

    THOUSANDS!!! THAT INFLUENCED US ELECTIONS!!!

    Well, fuck my parrot sideways, I'm already hiding under my TV settop bxo in fear. It's good that Facebook gets SLAMMED for that. (It sounds like forced sexual activity. It's cool. SLAM THEM AGAIN, UNCLE SAM!)

    In similar news today:

    Putin Hacked U.S. Election Via Pinterest

    I'm browning my pants.

    Russia Used Pokemon Go to Elect Trump by Supporting BLM

    I'm turning myself in at Checkpoint Charlie!

    Now wait, BLM is a violent movement wooed by Hillary. May the un-logic is another Russian Plot? WHO KNOWS!

    1. ST Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: AAAHHH MOTHERLAND!!!!!

      > Why does Kieren keep serving this US meedja bullshit?

      and

      THOUSANDS!!! THAT INFLUENCED US ELECTIONS!!!

      followed by

      Well, fuck my parrot sideways [...]

      The point of Kieren's article is not about the effectiveness of Russia's campaign to influence the US election. It is about Facebook's and Twitter's dishonesty when they claim that they can no longer recover certain specific deleted posts. Everyone knows that statement is patently false.

      Of course, understanding what you read, hear or see is not a requirement when voting Trump. It's probably a hindrance.

      How's your parrot doing? Was it as good for him as it was for you?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AAAHHH MOTHERLAND!!!!!

        We all know FB and Twitspace are not coming clean on this. The question is, why? Those two orgs may or may not be left leaning, but they sure ain't right leaning! The author alludes that these erstwhile liberal bastions are now suddenly doing a 180 politically, by deleting posts that could show Trump's election was beholden to the Russians.

        But, really? I would have thought that's the last thing they would do. Isn't it a bit more likely they'd want to hide evidence that interfered with the Democrats' thesis viz Russia?

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: AAAHHH MOTHERLAND!!!!!

          They are not coming clean on it because they lack the cojones to simply say they provided a service for a fee, a service that is not only legal but which, under the restrictions of the first amendment is not subject to regulation. That would be unpopular and doubtless would disturb some of their advertisers and possibly cut their income.

          It is illegal for foreigners to contribute to US political campaigns or candidates, and it also is illegal for foreigners to engage in direct advocacy for or against candidates or issues. It is not illegal for them to report "fake news" or express opinions about either actual or proposed policies or government actions. Some of what Russians or the Russian government is claimed to have done may have exceeded what is legal, but most is not, and I, for one, consider it most unlikely that any of them will be charged for violations they may have committed.

          The US 2016 election was unusually rancorous, but not unprecedented even in the early years of the union. The agitation before the election can best be understood in the context of a contest between two main candidates each of whom was thoroughly loathed and distrusted by roughly two thirds of the voting eligible population. The story since then is largely about the losing party grasping at straws to explain their loss and the winning party, having been the party of "no" for the previous two plus presidential terms, finding itself unable to collect enough votes to enact legislation to carry forward a program that it now finds it never really had.

          1. Donn Bly
            Mushroom

            Re: AAAHHH MOTHERLAND!!!!!

            and it also is illegal for foreigners to engage in direct advocacy for or against candidates or issues

            No, it is NOT illegal. If it was, then The Reg (and many other non-US publications) would be in a heap of trouble for advocating for or against issues. If it was, then when a Prime Minister says that the USA is making a mistake on a given issue, then that Prime Minister would be breaking US law -- and that is certainly NOT the case.

            In a free country It is nether illegal nor unethical** for someone to advocate for or against an issue or candidate, regardless of citizenship. The USA may not be as free as it once was, but those freedoms are still intact.

            ** I may disagree with you, but I will defend your right to say it. Even if the content of one's "message" may be considered by some to be unethical, it is not unethical for you to deliver that message.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: AAAHHH MOTHERLAND!!!!!

              "If it was, then when a Prime Minister says that the USA is making a mistake on a given issue, then that Prime Minister would be breaking US law -- and that is certainly NOT the case."

              Given US attempts to extend its law to the entire world, I'm not totally sure you will continue to be completely right.

        2. ST Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: AAAHHH MOTHERLAND!!!!!

          > The question is, why?

          Because Money.

          In this particular case they do not want to be known how much they got paid to publish political ads cooked up by the Russian FSB. Or exactly how many political ads were served.

          And, in case it is proven that they did indeed accept money from a foreign government in exchange for publishing political ads in the US, pertaining to a US election, that is a potential legal liability for them. See FARA.

          > Isn't it a bit more likely they'd want to hide evidence that interfered with the Democrats' thesis viz Russia?

          No, because in the US, acting as an agent of a foreign government without being registered as a foreign agent, and without disclosing that one is acting on behalf of a foreign government, is a felony.

          I don't know that the Democratic Party has a political theory about Russia. Maybe Hillary Clinton does. I don't think that Hillary Clinton lost the election because of Russian interference. And I am a registered Democrat. Kieren's article does not advance this theory either.

          Given that neither the exact, nor the ballpark, number of Russian-sponsored political ads is known, nor is the full extent of the Russian political involvement in the 2016 US election, it's impossible to determine the effectiveness of the Russian attempt. Impossible to determine doesn't mean it didn't happen.

          I do know that the vast majority of members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, and all the US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia has interfered in the 2016 US election. The only US politician rejecting this conclusion is Donald J. Trump.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: AAAHHH MOTHERLAND!!!!!

            > Isn't it a bit more likely they'd want to hide evidence that interfered with the Democrats' thesis viz Russia?

            No, because in the US, acting as an agent of a foreign government without being registered as a foreign agent, and without disclosing that one is acting on behalf of a foreign government, is a felony.

            And with that, my friend, you have put your finger on the exact problem.

            "Ich habe es nicht gewußt" ("I didn't know") hasn't worked since the Nuremburg trials, and is especially not plausible for companies that are wall to wall technology and that are already using deep analysis and geo location of their victims. It is as plausible as a bank not knowing the origin of dodgy funds in their accounts.

            As proclaiming innocence is thus clearly not viable, the next option is to "accidentally" erase all records and so make a conviction less likely. Destroying what has not yet been demanded as evidence is akin to shredding financial records before the regulator comes in: mildly painful and probably fine worthy, but far preferable over a hard conviction based on evidence.

            And cheaper, of course. The fines for little "accidents" like that are minute in comparison what it could cost them otherwise, so it's really a no brainer.

          3. tom dial Silver badge

            Re: AAAHHH MOTHERLAND!!!!!

            The New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, and Scientific American (certainly among many others) publish, with some frequency, advertisements of foreign governments. Some of these certainly are intended to influence US citizens and organizations, and probably are intended to influence US government agencies and officers. While they are not required to register as foreign agents under FARA (I assume that because none of them actually is so registered) it would be a big stretch to think that Twitter, Facebook, or Google (or Microsoft (Bing) or Yahoo) would not be eligible for the same status.

            The knee jerk reaction of many to anything that displeases them that "there oughta be a law" often is restricted by constitutional limits on government action. This is unfortunate for them, but fortunate for the rest of us.

          4. Zare

            Re: AAAHHH MOTHERLAND!!!!!

            The last Facebook statement about the issue I saw, after their investigation into ad campaigns, was that they identified $100k worth of ads made from browsers which had Russian as default language (or similar hints). Hardly the evidence of FSB/KGB/Putin involvement. And then, the biggest accusation FB could make was that those ads were trying to amplify current divisions in US. That is not a proof of election meddling.

            I am not saying Russians would not like to influence the US election, but if this is the most Congress can find, then they should be proud that they have pretty solid election process.

            On the other hand, I see the real meddling in their elections from legal lobbying, domestic and foreign. Which is insane that it is allowed, in my opinion, but politicians like money more than having impartial politics.

      2. DCFusor

        Re: AAAHHH MOTHERLAND!!!!!

        @ST - reading comprehension would help you with this quote from this op-ed disguised as news:

        "Which is well and good until you consider that both Facebook and Twitter's services were used extensively by the Russia government to sow misinformation and division during the US presidential election, and Kremlin agents have, for obvious reasons, done everything they can to destroy any and all evidence of that campaign."

        So, who's not understanding what they read here?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So let me get this straight...

    Posting stuff on Twitter and Facebook now accounts for "influencing the presidential elections"? And that's illegal (or controversial)... how exactly?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: So let me get this straight...

      You haven't noticed yet that we are very far down the hole of a Goodthink/Badthink world?

      Things that Liberal Leadership supports are Good, the rest is Bad. To make things a tragicomedy, what Liberal Leadership supports may be the complete opposite of what it should stand for, at least according to what is printed on the outside of the progressive package. It all depends on the flows of power and money and on the need to get to the top of the political job hierarchy before Alzheimer sets in.

      Speaking of which: How the Narrative Cake Is Baked: In the New York Times, Tina Brown, who quit as editor of the New Yorker in the late 1990s to edit a start-up glossy magazine backed by Harvey Weinstein called Talk, explains a little about how The Narrative cake is baked

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: So let me get this straight...

      "Posting stuff on Twitter and Facebook now accounts for "influencing the presidential elections"? And that's illegal (or controversial)... how exactly?"

      If even true, which I doubt.

      1. Loud Speaker

        Re: So let me get this straight...

        In the interests of impartiality, can't we just make it a crime to post any stuff on social media, regardless of political persuasion?

    3. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: So let me get this straight...

      For the most part, it doesn't, and it isn't. The Democrats, for now, think it does, because how else can Clinton's loss be explained? The politicians and conventional news sellers, who mostly know little to nothing about the matter, are afraid it does and feel threatened. Both are engaged in a full court press, along with the conventional media, to generate controversy and panic, hoping to sneak regulation (the Constitution be damned) that they hope will preserve their incumbency and businesses.

  11. MooJohn

    I'd like to see some examples

    We keep hearing about these ads but I haven't seen a single example of an "interference" ad that was so compelling it would have changed my vote. Let's see what the Russians wrote that was so persuasive that it changed the election. I'm sure professional political advisers can't wait to see what kind of verbiage they need to use next time!

    1. Aynon Yuser

      Re: I'd like to see some examples

      I haven't seen any either. I guess if it's part of an investigation then perhaps it can't be released publicly just yet.

      I doubt anything would change my vote. If I came across anything out of the ordinary I normally would search for other news sources. If someone I knew sent me something unusual I'd check for other sources and tell them there are no other sources and therefore it has to be fabricated.

      Most us have intelligence and common sense, but sadly we do have many Americans that will blindly believe anything they read on the internet. If only 5% out of 300 million people (I'm being generous) are feeble and gullible, it can take that amount of people to sway a vote in the intended targets direction.

      Now we have a loose cannon nut job as president poking the nuclear button fingers of NK and Iran. Putin is sitting back and enjoying the show as are the rest of the world. Putin doesn't realize that he isn't safe either if there is a nuclear war. His billions of dollars won't be worth much when the planet is radiated for millions of years.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: I'd like to see some examples

        "His billions of dollars won't be worth much when the planet is radiated for millions of years."

        If the US were to use nuclear bombs to destroy PRNK, it would only take a couple, well placed. There is not a lot of infrastructure in the country to target and that much could be done with far less expensive munitions. Both from a financial and political standpoint.

        The UK government is entirely rational either.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: I'd like to see some examples

      "Icecream, Mandrake. Children's ice cream."

    3. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: I'd like to see some examples

      Many of us would, but I do not expect to any time soon. The most likely outcome of their release would be thunderous, hysterical, and well nigh universal laughter, something most politicians fear more than they fear being caught in compromising circumstances with a person not their legal spouse.

  12. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Real Reason

    The supposed effects of the Russian advertising is just a smokescreen to cover up the fact Hilary ran an incompetent campaign and earned the loss by her ineptitude. Her sidekick Bubba, who knows a couple of things about winning Presidential elections, told her campaign she needed to campaign in the Midwestern states she lost not in California which she was going to win. But the campaign basically told Bubba he is an idiot and she did not need campaign in what are called 'battleground states' for a good reason. So they blame the loss on everything and everyone except themselves.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Real Reason

      Hillary won the most populist cities. ie; the places where lots of people get the most free stuff from the government. Trump won most of what wasn't one of the top 20 biggest cities.

      I not so certain that the biggest issue regarding US politics isn't that it's become so slimy that people of substance aren't willing to run for office. It needs to reined in before dissatisfaction with how things are done leads to another major revolution. The same issues are emerging again. Diminishing rights, taxation without representation, double taxation, a political class immune from law and on and on.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Real Reason

        It is actually the red states that get more in benefits from the government than they pay in. The big blue states like California, New York and Illinois are net contributors to the federal government - they pay more in taxes than they get back.

        I'll leave this here, and count down the seconds until someone who doesn't like the message screams "fake news" or claims WalletHub is a liberal site (maybe it is, I just googled to find a site that showed recent rankings and explains the methodology used)

        https://wallethub.com/edu/states-most-least-dependent-on-the-federal-government/2700/

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: Real Reason

          Correct. The divide in the US is much more between large cities and their suburbs and medium isolated cities, towns, and rural areas. County level maps of Democratic vs. Republican results show this quite dramatically. The pattern has been pretty stable over the last five presidential cycles and probably more, perhaps much more.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Real Reason

            That's hardly anything new. There has been a divide between urban and rural areas of the US since long before any of us were born, or our grandfathers were born.

            The needs, lives and desired interface with and role for government differ greatly for a city dweller and a farmer.

  13. chivo243 Silver badge
    Holmes

    Two orgs doing the same dirty?

    The fix is in... the horses have bolted and the truth is dead.

    Which film did the hero say "they've gotten to you...?

    Where's the blind man icon, cause even a blind man knows which way the wind blows....

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Darling Petunia

    Revelation

    Twitter and Facebook have revealed that their firms are without integrity. Those who choose to remain as 'users' do so with that understanding.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Revelation

      "Twitter and Facebook have revealed that their firms are without integrity. Those who choose to remain as 'users' do so with that understanding."

      A firm without integrity? If you think there is any other kind, well, I'd like some of the drug you're taking.

  16. Alan Brown Silver badge

    This will be very useful

    To european data privacy commissioners when facebook roll out the "we can't delete that" excuse yet again.

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