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Facebook top executive’s comments on Russian meddling sparks fury



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.


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 Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.

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Senate to vote on Vanita Gupta for Justice Dept. No. 3 despite broad GOP opposition



WASHINGTON — The Senate is set to vote Wednesday afternoon on the nomination of Vanita Gupta for associate attorney general despite nearly unified opposition from Republicans.

The Senate advanced Gupta’s nomination for the Justice Department’s No. 3 spot in a 51-49 vote earlier Wednesday after Moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, joined all Democrats in bringing the nomination to a final vote. Murkowski’s support for the vote meant Vice President Kamala Harris was not needed to break a tie.

Harris could still be needed to do so for the final confirmation vote, expected around 2:15 p.m. ET. The final vote comes almost a month after the Senate Judiciary Committee took a 11-11 party-line vote on her nomination, which required the Senate to vote last week to discharge the nomination from committee to allow it to come to the floor.

Gupta, who ran the Justice Department’s civil rights division as an associate attorney general during the Obama administration, will bring a “long overdue perspective” to the department, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday.

“Not only is Ms. Gupta the first woman of color to ever be nominated to the position, she is the first civil rights attorney ever to be nominated to the position — the third-ranking official in the Justice Department,” he said. “And just to give you a sense of Ms. Gupta’s commitment to civil rights and racial equity, in her very first case after law school, she won the release of several African Americans who had been wrongfully convicted by all-white juries in Texas.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday that he would “strongly oppose” Gupta’s nomination, arguing that she has “repeatedly amplified left-wing fear-mongering toward judicial nominees and sitting federal judges” and “levied attacks on members of this body.”

McConnell also accused Gupta of employing “the loosest possible interpretation of her oath to deliver honest testimony” during her confirmation process and said her reputation “contrasts sharply” with that of Attorney General Merrick Garland, whom he voted to confirm.

“The White House needs to make a better choice for this key post,” he said. “The Senate should create that opportunity by voting no today.”

President Joe Biden praised Gupta, who serves as head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in his remarks Tuesday night following the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.

Biden said Gupta and Kristen Clarke, the head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, whom he nominated to run the DOJ’s civil rights division, “are eminently qualified, highly respected lawyers who have spent their entire careers fighting to advance racial equity and justice.”

Gupta and Clarke have the experience and skill “to advance our administration’s priorities to root out unconstitutional policing and reform our criminal justice system, and they deserve to be confirmed,” Biden said.

Many Republicans have voiced opposition to Clarke’s nomination as well.

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Fat chance! EU mocked over 2050 green target as Germany falters – hours after UK pledge



GERMANY has been criticised for lagging behind its climate targets after Angela Merkel welcomed new EU emissions laws.

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Five major immigration promises Biden has yet to keep



WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s recent reversal of its plans to raise the refugee cap sparked outrage not only among immigration advocates but from Democrats who accused the president of breaking his promise. Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois said in response to the news on Twitter Friday, “Say it ain’t so, President Joe. This is unacceptable.” Raising the refugee cap is one of at least five promises on immigration made by candidate and President-elect Biden that have not yet been fulfilled as the end of his first 100 days approaches.

Reunite separated migrant families: In the final presidential debate, Biden was asked what he would do to reunite 545 children with their parents after they were separated by the Trump administration in 2017 and 2018. Biden pledged to build a task force to reunite them. While the task force has formed and has pledged to bring back deported parents to reunite with their children, not one of the deported parents has so far been brought back, according to lawyers representing the families. On a call with reporters earlier this month, a senior Department of Homeland Security official said the task force is first working on capturing the “full scope” of those potentially affected by the policy.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, which represents the separated families said, “We are beginning to make progress on trying to repair the damage of the Trump administration’s family separation practice but it will be a long process and the key is ultimately whether the Biden administration sticks with it and provides real meaningful relief for these families.”

End detention of migrant families by Immigration and Customs Enforcement: During his presidential campaign, Biden tweeted “Children should be released from ICE detention with their parents immediately.” Asked in March whether he agreed, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said “a detention center is not where a family belongs.” Shortly after, in a court filing, the Biden administration said it would be ending the practice of holding migrant parents and children who are seeking asylum in detention. But then ICE walked it back, with a senior official telling NBC News, “We are not ending family detention. We are not closing the family detention centers.”

Though many families have been released without being detained, due to the limited capacity of border processing facilities, two ICE detention centers for families in South Texas continue to hold nearly 500 parents and children daily. By court order, families are not supposed to be detained for more than 20 days unless they are awaiting deportation. After that, they are typically released as they await their day in immigration court.

Raise the refugee cap: As a candidate, Biden promised to raise the limit on refugees resettled in the U.S. annually from the Trump administration’s historic lows to 125,000. Once in office, the Biden administration said that goal would be realized in the 2022 fiscal year, which begins in October, and it would admit 62,500 this fiscal year.

But last week, the Biden administration said it would keep the current level of refugees — 15,000 per fiscal year, set by the Trump administration — at least until it sets a “final, increased” refugee cap on May 15. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that “the challenge is the ability to process” increased numbers of refugees. And other White House officials blamed the high number of immigrants crossing the southern border.

However, the agencies and personnel used to screen refugees overseas are different from those used to process asylum seekers who have crossed into the U.S. The State Department works with the UN to identify refugees around the world to bring to the U.S., while asylum seekers at the border are processed by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and unaccompanied minors who cross the border are cared for by Health and Human Services.

Government contractors remove existing Normandy barriers that separate Mexico and the United States, in preparation for a section of Pentagon-funded border wall along the Colorado River in Yuma, Ariz. on Sept. 10, 2019.Matt York / AP

Stop border wall construction: At the beginning of his presidency, Biden paused border wall construction and land acquisition until a a 60-day review of Trump’s border wall could be completed. The review tasked those involved to decide where the money set aside for the wall could be redirected. The 60-day mark passed more than 30 days ago without any results.

Last week, as the review continues, a judge agreed to give the government six acres of land in Hidalgo County, Texas, for the purpose of wall construction despite the Justice Department asking the court to wait until its review was complete. The case is one of more than 200 eminent domain cases started under the Trump administration that still continue today.

A spokesperson for the White House’s Office of Management and Budget said the review has been delayed because there is so much to sort out. “When the administration took office, funds had been diverted from military construction and other appropriated purposes toward building the wall, and wall construction was being challenged in multiple lawsuits by plaintiffs who alleged that the construction was creating serious environmental and safety issues. Under those circumstances, federal agencies are continuing to develop a plan to submit to the President soon,” the spokesperson said.

Children and workers walk at a tent encampment built to house migrant children near Tornillo, Texas, on June 19, 2018.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

Hold the Trump administration accountable for family separation: As a candidate, Biden called the Trump administration’s practice of separating migrant families “criminal.” During the presidential transition he said, “There will be a thorough, thorough investigation of who is responsible and whether or not the responsibility is criminal and if that has been concluded the [Attorney General] will make that judgment.” But so far, no such review has been launched. In a recent court filing, the Justice Department blocked the release of Trump administration documents that detailed the planning of the “zero tolerance” policy that separated nearly 3,000 migrant families.

The White House declined to comment. DHS and DOJ did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Geoff Bennett and Monica Alba contributed.

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