By this point you’ve probably heard something regarding Russia and their relation to the 2016 presidential election. Given all of the other craziness going on across America recently, it’s easy to have forgotten about Russia but new details have emerged that The Culture should be aware of:
For a full timeline of everything that went down please go here. But for those of you with a limited amount of time (or attention span) here are the highlights:
- Last summer the Democratic Party’s computer systems were hacked by Russians who stole emails from high ranking officials and then passed them to WikiLeaks who published them online
- Russian hackers created false accounts on all of the biggest social media sites and used them to spread divisive memes and other food for Twitter trolls
Why would they do that?
Russia has had beef with the U.S. for the past 50 years, most famously as our enemy in a “Cold War” where both countries built up their arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world’s biggest international dick swinging contest. More recently, Russia’s hated the US because of economic sanctions imposed by Obama in response to Russia bullying the nations around them and generally being an asshole. Obama was a Democrat and given that the Republican plan seems to be just doing the opposite of Democrats, so Russia would expect to benefit from a better relationship with the US with a Republican in office. There are other (more fun) theories about the reasons why Russians would help Trump win that involved Miss Universe, international debt, and piss parties but I’ll let you go down that internet rabbit hole yourself.
How do we know it was Russia?
Every computer has an IP address that can be traced back to a location with enough effort. The IP addresses involved in the hacks were the same ones tied to numerous cyber crimes performed by infamous Russian hacker groups. We even got confirmation of this from the US government itself prior to the election when the Department of Homeland Security said that they were “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions.” It’s well known internationally that Russia’s army of hackers don’t just work independently but actually take direction from the Russian government.
Did it work?
Trump did win but it’s obviously hard to quantify exactly how much leaked emails and fake social media posts impacted the election. However, the information facebook just released last week is the most damning yet. First of all, over 10 million people were exposed to the 3,000 ads that the Russians put out on facebook. That’s bad enough as it is, but then we found out that they weren’t just spamming their divisive bullshit all over the place. The ads were actually targeted at states like Wisconsin and Michigan who ended up deciding the ultimate outcome because (unlike somewhere like Massachusetts) they swing between Democrat or Republican depending on the election. If you were to try to hack an election these were the states to do it in. And if you wanted to manipulate the minds of Americans who have become walking zombies staring at the screen in their hand then social media would be the way to do it.
What happens now?
This one is hardest to answer. Given the facts, it’s clear that Russia definitely impacted the election. It’s hard to say how much it did so the chances of this controversy by itself taking down Trump are slim to none (but don’t worry he may get pinched on a bunch of other stuff). We need to hope for some type of miracle to get him out because it looks very unlikely he’ll ever punish Russia for these actions. The one time he did bring it up to them he accepted that they didn’t do it without question and even almost agreed to having them help us with cyber security.
Congress has passed additional sanctions on Russia but nothing significant enough to match the crime they committed. Unfortunately at this point it looks like the Russians will get away with it while we try to work through the mess they made. This is the new mode of warfare and they’ve just landed a huge blow.
Welp, there it is. There’s the ugly truth that been buried beneath memes, kneeling debates, and all of the other garbage the internet distracts us with. The Culture cannot succeed without being aware of the world so the FTC team feels it’s our job to make sure you are able to cut past the bullshit. Make no doubt: Russia did hack our election and it did impact the outcome. So if someone tries to tell you otherwise, just do your best Trump face, given them a “Fake news!”, and walk away.