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Flynn And Trump Jr. Dominate Coverage Of Trump’s Associates In Russia Investigation

by Charlie Warzel on September 21, 2017

Carlos Barria / Reuters

When it comes to the ongoing Trump/Russia investigations, the media — and readers — have made their interests clear: former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort may be a crucial figure, but he's nowhere near as interesting as Don Jr. or Michael Flynn.

That is according to Facebook data collected by the social media data and optimization firm Social Flow, which tracked how many stories have been written about Trump's family members and associates regarding Russia in 2017 across its network of over 300 major media companies. The company also monitored engagement across its network on Facebook, tracking average clicks per story for articles about each associate, as well as the aggregate Facebook reach of articles they're mentioned in. Taken together, the chart attempts to gauge reader interest in each player (according to Social Flow President Trump was left off the chart because his results “dwarfs everything” and skew the results).

Here's what we learned from the data:

Social Flow

The Trump associate Russia narrative is dominated by Flynn.

With regard to Russia, Flynn is by far the most covered of anyone in Trumpland (besides the President). According to Social Flow, Flynn has been mentioned in at least one Russia-related article 157 days in 2017 (out of 260 counted in the data) meaning his name has rarely been out of the news.

According to the data, Russia stories involving former national security advisor Michael Flynn and Donald Trump Jr. are far and away more interesting to readers than other associates like Manafort or even Jared Kushner. Individually, Russia stories about Flynn and Trump Jr. have an aggregate reach on Facebook of nearly 300 million users since January 1, 2017. Meanwhile, Social Flow data on Russia-related stories about Kushner shows an aggregate Facebook reach of just over 125 million users — Manafort's trails far below that with an aggregate reach on Facebook of just 50 million.

The data also shows that many prominent Trump associates whose names have been mentioned in media coverage of the campaign's potential involvements with Russia are not necessarily household names. According to Social Flow, Trump advisors Roger Stone, Carter Page, and Michael Cohen have appeared frequently in media coverage (Stone, for example, has been mentioned in at least one article about Russia 98 out of 260 days in 2017) but none have attracted the kind of substantial reach across Facebook as Flynn, Don Jr., and Kushner.

When it comes to Russia, data shows that not all Trump sons are equal.

While stories about Don Jr. have vast reach across Facebook and a high number of average clicks across the social network, Russia related stories mentioning Eric Trump have not captivated audiences. This can probably be chalked up to the coverage disparity between the two brothers (in 2017 Don Jr. has at least one Russia related article published about him on 76 days comapred to just 23 for Eric Trump) as well as the midsummer revelations of Don Jr.'s 2016 contacts with Russia.

Social Flow

There's no shortage of media coverage of Trump associates' ties to Russia.

Social Flow tracked the combined stories published each day across its network, which includes major publications like the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Politico, and more. The data illustrates that, while coverage ebbs and flows, it never stops. Across Social Flow's network, coverage of Trump associates and Russia rarely dips below a combined 100 articles a day.

And since most of the coverage is driven by breaking news, Social Flow's chart also acts as a helpful map of the year according to Russia. The chart's spikes, for example, show some of the biggest stories of the year, including the Steele Dossier published by BuzzFeed News on January 10th, revelations on May 15th that President Trump revealed highly classified intelligence with Russian ambassadors, and the July 10th and 11th stories about Don Jr.'s contacts with Russia.

All told, however, the data seems to confirm what many already take to be true: the Trump/Russia reporting is massive, complex story that's captured the interest of hundreds of millions of readers. And it's one that doesn't appear to be going away.

Originally Posted By BuzzFeed - Tech


Sheryl Sandberg Says Facebook Will Tweak Its Ad Platform To Eliminate Hateful Categories

by Alex Kantrowitz on September 20, 2017

Justin Tallis / AFP / Getty Images

Facebook is making changes to its ad platform in an attempt to prevent people from using it for hateful ad targeting.

On Wednesday afternoon, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg responded to a ProPublica report published last week that found advertisers could use Facebook to target people interested in topics like “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” and the Nazi Party. In a Facebook post, Sandberg called the targeting criteria totally inappropriate, and said Facebook will make changes to prevent similar issues from taking place again.

“Seeing those words made me disgusted and disappointed – disgusted by these sentiments and disappointed that our systems allowed this,” she said.

Here’s Sandberg’s full post:

View Video ›

Facebook: sheryl

Before last week's report, whenever someone wrote anything into Facebook's self-reported profile fields — education, employment, job title, and field of study — Facebook's ad system would automatically make that entry a targeting option. So people listing “Jew hater” in their field of study automatically turned “Jew hater” into an ad targeting option. To fix the problem, Facebook is adding human review to the process, hoping it will be a firewall against something like this happening again. ProPublica found the targeting criteria inside Facebook's ad system following a tip. there were 2,274 people in the “Jew hater” category that it discovered.

Facebook is also working on a program “to encourage people on Facebook to report potential abuses of our ads system to us directly,” Sandberg said. The company will also clarify its ad policies and tighten its enforcement of the policies Sandberg said, without providing much more detail.

Sandberg admitted in her post that Facebook was unprepared for such abuse because it hadn't considered it. “We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way – and that is on us. And we did not find it ourselves – and that is also on us,” she said.

Facebook's inability to anticipate how less-than-altruistic people might abuse its products has been a long-running problem and has factored into a number of its biggest crises, from its fake news scandal to the shocking level of violence that's aired on Facebook Live. As BuzzFeed News' Mat Honan put it in April, “The problem with connecting everyone on the planet is that a lot of people are assholes.”

Asked if the need to add human reviewers means there's a fundamental flaw with its technology, Facebook directed BuzzFeed News to this line in Sandberg's post: “The fact that hateful terms were even offered as options was totally inappropriate and a fail on our part.”

Originally Posted By BuzzFeed - Tech