A CNN national security analyst suggested on Monday that social media companies are “treasonous” for allowing Russian trolls to use their websites to disseminate disinformation.
“In asymmetric warfare, words and disinformation are critical weapons…social media firms are aiding and abetting our enemies, providing them a firing platform,” wrote Mark Hertling, a retired lieutenant general who now works as a national security analyst for CNN.
“That could be called treasonous,” he added.
Hertling offered the comment in response to an article referring to the social media sites “tools” of Russia’s information warfare campaign.
A federal grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals on Friday who created fake social media personas aimed at sowing discord among American voters. The operatives planted divisive political ads on Facebook and Twitter that were largely aimed at boosting President Donald Trump and criticizing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Some of the ads did support progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein.
The Russians also advertised and hosted political rallies before and after the election, both in support of and opposition to Trump.
Facebook and Twitter have come under heavy scrutiny because of the Kremlin operations’ use of their platforms, but few have gone as far as Hertling in calling the companies “treasonous.”
Despite the rhetoric, there is little evidence that the Kremlin’s social media targeting affected the outcome of the election.
Rob Goldman, the vice president of advertising at Facebook, insisted over the weekend that the goal of the Russian ads was to sow discord, not to sway the election. He also claimed most of the spending on Facebook ads occurred after Trump’s election win. (RELATED: Facebook VP Slams Media’s Russia Coverage)
“Most of the coverage of Russian meddling involves their attempt to effect the outcome of the 2016 US election. I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal,” Goldman wrote on Twitter.
“The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election,” he said.
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