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Russia's suspected meddling in U.S. politics wasn't expressly meant to elect President Donald Trump, but was intended to sow fear and hatred among Americans, a top Facebook executive said — an assessment that was endorsed by the president himself.
Rob Goldman, vice president of ads at Facebook, took to Twitter on Friday to applaud special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation of Russian trolls on social media. He also sought to clarify what he perceived as misconceptions surrounding Russian meddling in the U.S. political process.
"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 [sic] Americans," he wrote on the social site.
"It is working incredibly well. We are quite divided as a nation," he added.
After catching wind of Goldman's tweets, Trump backed the executive's analysis. He stated Goldman's thread effectively endorsed his argument that there was "no collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russian actors on social media.
" Hard to ignore this fact from the Vice President of Facebook Ads, Rob Goldman!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
Facebook and other social media platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, have come under intense scrutiny in past weeks, as more information has surfaced about how Russian actors used those platforms to spread misinformation online.
Mueller's 37-page indictment, released on Friday, revealed the depth of Russian involvement in the U.S. political process. The document stated that a Russian organization, called the Internet Research Agency, created fictitious American personas on social media platforms and other Internet-based media to wage "information warfare" against the United States.
Facebook's Goldman stated that sowing chaos, not electing Trump, was Russia's primary intent in infiltrating American social media networks.
"Most of the coverage of Russian meddling involves their attempt to effect the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election. I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal," he wrote on Twitter.
To prove his point, he referenced an anti-Islam protest in Houston in November 2017. Russian trolls were later shown to have organized both sides of the protest.
The fact that it all benefited Trump, was just an added plus for Russia, according to Goldman.
"I think the Russians believed that Trump would be a more divisive leader," he said.
Facebook has released the names of several fake accounts, groups and events created and orchestrated by Russians on social media. But even the company admits it can't catch all of the ads. Goldman emphasized Facebook is actively working to prevent such manipulation in the future.
"We are also taking aggressive steps to prevent this sort of meddling in the future by requiring verification of political advertisers and by making all ads on the platform visible to anyone who cares to examine them," Goldman said.