If a brand today wants to promote a new product, it would order its social media team to tailor posts that resonate with its audience, buy targeted ads to reach impressionable eyeballs, and closely monitor the performance of its messaging to ensure it reaches, and influences, as many viewers as possible. If a Russian troll farm wanted to disrupt an American election and amplify discord in an open society, it would apparently do the exact same things. That’s one of the key takeaways from an indictment filed Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III against 13 Russians and three Russian companies that allegedly sought to interfere with the 2016 presidential election and aid the Trump campaign. The indictment describes textbook usage of American tech platforms, shedding light on an alleged covert campaign that aims to undermine the political process by exploiting features — not bugs — of social media services. The ease in which anyone can fan ideas on social media, is both its selling point and its flaw, the alleged Russian conspiracy shows. “While platforms like Facebook and Twitter are allowing Americans to communicate and share ideas in ways unimaginable just a decade ago, we’re also learning that we each bear some responsibility for exercising good judgment and a healthy amount of skepticism when it comes to the things we read and share on social media,” Sen. Their apparent goal was espionage. Their tactics were social media 101

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