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Facebook top executive’s comments on Russian meddling sparks fury

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A top executive at Facebook came under fire Friday after tweeting that it takes a “well educated citizenry” to fight off Russian election meddling attempts and claimed the main goal of the Russian online disinformation campaign was not to sway the 2016 presidential election, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Most of the coverage of Russian meddling involves their attempt to affect the outcome of the 2016 US election,” Rob Goldman, Facebook’s head of advertising, tweeted on Friday. “I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal.”

Goldman’s comments came shortly after a federal grand jury indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election, in a case brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The indictment described how an organization called the Internet Research Agency allegedly used social media, including Facebook, to create division and tried to influence U.S. public opinion. The company allegedly set up hundreds of social media accounts using stolen or fictitious identities to give an impression that real people are behind the activism online.

The defendants are also accused of starting a disinformation campaign in 2014 and spreading derogatory information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, attacking Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and expressing support for then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

13 RUSSIANS NATIONALS INDICTED FOR INTERFERING IN US ELECTIONS

But Goldman, who was “excited to see the Mueller indictment” on Friday, said that despite the common view, “the majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election.” Part of the reason for lack of awareness is that “very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Trump and the election.”

“44% of total ad impressions (number of times ads were displayed) were before the US election on November 8, 2016; 56% were after the election,” read a factoid released by Facebook in October 2017.

“The main goal of the Russian propaganda and misinformation effort is to divide America by using our institutions, like free speech and social media, against us. It has stoked fear and hatred amongst Americans.  It is working incredibly well. We are quite divided as a nation,” he said.

He added: “There are easy ways to fight this. Disinformation is ineffective against a well-educated citizenry.  Finland, Sweden and Holland have all taught digital literacy and critical thinking about misinformation to great effect.”

But Goldman’s tweets caused a fury on social media and accusations of sowing confusion and diminishing the problem of Russian interference.

“You really are not in a position to preach and your astonishing tweets have created confusion and anger,” Mainardo de Nardis, a senior executive at advertising giant Omnicom Group Inc., said in a tweet Sunday. “Enough damage done over the past 2+ years. In the absence of real actions silence would be appreciated.”

The backlash was further amplified after President Donald Trump cited Goldman’s tweets. “The Fake News Media never fails. Hard to ignore this fact from the Vice President of Facebook Ads, Rob Goldman!” Trump tweeted.

“Mr. Goldman should have stayed silent,” Clint Watts, a fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute who studied the Russian influence campaign, told The Wall Street Journal. He notes that minimizing the impact of the Russian efforts to influence the election risked further angering Americans.

“The public is upset that they got duped on Facebook’s platform. Facebook got duped,” he added. “It makes it seem like they don’t get it.”

Facebook’s vice president of global public policy Joel Kaplan released a statement on Sunday regarding Goldman’s tweets, saying that “Nothing we found contradicts the Special Counsel’s indictments. Any suggestion otherwise is wrong.”

After the onslaught of criticism, Goldman later expanded on some of the claims, tweeting that “the Russian campaign was certainly in favor of Mr. Trump.”

He also issued a caveat about his assertions: “I am only speaking here about the Russian behavior on Facebook. That is the only aspect that I observed directly.”

Lukas Mikelionis is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.



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Democrats harden position on infrastructure deal as doubts grow on bipartisan deal

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WASHINGTON — Progressive Democrats working on a bipartisan infrastructure deal hardened their position on the legislation after tense talks Monday.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a member of the Senate Democrats leadership team, came out against a bipartisan agreement Monday night after meeting with a bipartisan group of 10 senators.

“I wouldn’t vote for it,” Sanders told reporters. “The bottom line is, there are a lot of needs facing this country. Now is the time to address those needs, and it has to be paid for in a progressive way, given the fact that we have massive income and wealth inequality in America.”

Last week, the so-called G10 group of five Democrats and five Republicans said they had reached a tentative infrastructure deal, but skepticism from Republicans and impatience from Democrats left its prospects uncertain as lawmakers departed for the weekend.

Democratic Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley of Oregon have demanded that any deal must include action on climate change. The senators plan to hold a news conference Tuesday to call on lawmakers to include substantive climate action in the infrastructure proposal, such as investments to reduce emissions.

Some Democrats have tried to pressure their leadership to abandon bipartisan talks and instead push through a partisan bill, but there’s no guarantee that there are 50 Democratic votes for that tactic, either. And with each Democratic vote appearing to be in jeopardy, another Republican would need to vote in favor.

That means the bipartisan group will need to secure more than 10 Republicans to get its proposal across the finish line. Many in the Republican conference are still bitter over negotiations between President Joe Biden and their chief negotiator, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., breaking down earlier this month.

The group of lawmakers huddled Monday night to flesh out details of their plan. But leaving the half-hour meeting, senators were sending mixed signals to reporters staked out.

“There are still conversations on the pay-fors,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said. “There is no agreement.”

The lawmakers didn’t seem to be on the same page about whether a gas tax would help pay for the infrastructure proposal. Republicans said it was part of the plan, while Democrats said it wasn’t. The White House opposes the idea, saying it would lead to tax increases on the middle class.

However, several senators said they plan to release their proposal with details this week — an ambitious goal for a group that seems to have disagreements on key issues. Both sides plan to present the plan during their respective lunches tomorrow afternoon, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said.



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Biden on Russia’s ‘aggressive acts’ that post threat to NATO

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G-7 nations pledge major climate action, with key details missing

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WASHINGTON — Leaders of the G-7 club of wealthy nations took major symbolic strides toward solidifying global climate action at their U.K. summit, but stopped short of detailing how to confront two of the most pressing challenges: phasing out coal and financing the developing world’s energy transition.

With palpable relief after four years of former President Donald Trump, G-7 leaders heaped praise on President Joe Biden and sought to marry their own climate efforts to his domestic political agenda, coalescing under the umbrella of “build back better.” They also rallied behind a pledge to conserve 30 percent of lands and oceans by 2030, a goal Biden had already set for the United States.

“You know, we had a president last who basically said, ‘It’s not a problem, global warming,'” Biden said in a news conference capping his trip to the summit in Cornwall, England. “It is the existential problem facing humanity, and it’s been treated that way.”

But climate analysts, eyeing the G-7’s commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, emerged from the summit vexed over the failure to commit to specific steps broadly acknowledged as essential to meeting that goal. Continued burning of coal to generate power, for example, is widely accepted to be counterproductive to averting climate change’s worst effects.

“These are the seven countries that have to lead from the front,” said Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s former special envoy for climate and dean of Tufts University’s Fletcher School. Borrowing a phrase from the ongoing European soccer championship, she added: “It was an open goal, and they missed.”

The U.S. and its G-7 allies did re-up their pledge, first made in 2009, to collectively contribute $100 billion per year by 2020 to help poorer nations reduce emissions and fortify themselves against the growing effects of climate change. That $100 billion goal was never met. But the nations recommitted to that figure anyway, while extending the timeline for reaching it to 2025.

Yet, the joint communiqué that codifies the agreements reached at the summit included no new specific commitments for how countries would reach that figure. The U.S. is billions behind in actually writing checks for pledges it has made in the past.

“They restated a goal that’s been there for a decade, but they didn’t provide clarity about how that was going to be achieved,” said David Waskow, international climate director for the nonprofit World Resources Institute.

Some more hopeful signs did emerge in the hours after the summit ended, with Canada announcing it would double its annual pledge to $4.4 billion in U.S. dollars by 2025, and Germany saying it would triple it during that period, to more than $7 billion.

“That’s really good to see,” said Rachel Cleetus of the Union of Concerned Scientists. The United States, by contrast, “did not put any clear ambition on the table” with respect to global financing, she added.

The G-7 nations did put to paper a pledge to halve their emissions by 2030 and zero them out from their economies by 2050. That marked progress since the most recent G-7 summits, but did not move the ball from what countries including the U.S. have already committed. The United Kingdom and the European Union, in fact, have already pledged to cut much more on an even faster timeline.

And while the leaders vowed to “accelerate the transition away from new sales of diesel and petrol cars” to promote electric vehicles, they did not set a deadline to phase out gas-guzzling vehicles, as some countries before the summit had hoped.

On coal-fired power plants, the G-7 nations did set a deadline of next year to stop financing “unabated international thermal coal power generation.” That’s significant, considering that the world’s largest emitter, China, continues to fund new coal plants overseas.

Yet, the careful phrasing from the G-7 leaders leaves wiggle room to keep financing coal plants that use carbon capture technology to sequester and store carbon dioxide emitted from burning coal.

Perhaps the most glaring omission from the G-7 climate agreement, environmental advocates said, was the lack of any deadline for when nations will stop burning coal at home.

When the environmental ministers for the nations met virtually in May to lay the groundwork for this month’s summit, they jointly committed to achieving an “overwhelmingly decarbonized power system in the 2030s,” technical-speak for saying heavily polluting coal plants would be phased out by the end of the next decade.

But when Biden and other leaders emerged from the meeting, that language was absent from their communiqué, which instead pledged merely to “further accelerate the transition away from unabated coal capacity” without specifying a date.

Jason Bordoff, a White House National Security Council official in the Obama administration, said criticism of the Biden administration over that point was misplaced, given that Biden has already set a goal for U.S. electricity to be carbon-neutral by 2035. That goal broadly assumes phasing out coal anyway, along with cleaner-burning sources like natural gas.

“All the growth in coal use is in emerging markets and developing economies, so the G-7 agreement not to finance new coal projects is very significant, along with the pledge of assistance to help nations move away from fossil fuels,” said Bordoff, founding director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

Still, the G-7 summit in Cornwall may have been the last, best chance for the world’s wealthiest democracies to increase their leverage over China and other major emitters by uniting behind specific, joint goals well ahead of November. That is when leaders will gather in Scotland for a much-anticipated U.N. climate conference.

All of the remaining venues for high-level global diplomacy before that conference — including September’s U.N. General Assembly in New York and October’s G-20 summit in Rome — will include China.

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