The Russia watchU.K. democracy disrupted; Facebook to nab Russian trolls? Kremlin spins Skripal case, and more

Published 13 July 2018

  A grave threat to the NATO alliance

  Russian Special Forces just practiced invading an island near Finland

  Democracy disrupted? U.K. findings on data and politics

  Kremlin narratives on Skripal continue to grow online

  Vladimir Putin

  Facebook: We’d catch Russia’s troll farm today (

  Facebook is testing a Messenger feature that would identify suspicious Russian accounts

  As Trump meets Putin, we’ll spotlight and resist Russian aggression

A grave threat to the NATO alliance (and it’s not Russia’s military) (Ted Galen Carpenter, National Interest)
Beware of the emergence of ugly authoritarian trends in some members, especially Romania, Hungary and Turkey.

Russian Special Forces just practiced invading an island near Finland (Patrick Tucker, Defense One)
It’s the latest in a series of military exercises that regional observers call provocative and intimidating.

Democracy disrupted? U.K. findings on data and politics (Barney Thompson, Financial Times)
Regulator’s probe and Facebook fine put Brexit campaigners and others under spotlight. The U.K. information watchdog says its investigation into the nexus between data analytics, social media and political campaigning is now “the largest of its type by any data protection authority.” Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, said the ICO had been “astounded” by the amount of personal data in the possession of the U.K.’s major parties.
The ICO said it has established that AggregateIQ, a Canadian company used by Donald Trump’s team during his US presidential bid, “had access to UK voter personal data provided from the Vote Leave campaign.” Vote Leave was the official pro-Brexit group. It is also looking into “whether and how Vote Leave transferred the personal data of U.K. citizens outside the U.K. and whether this was in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998, and whether that personal data has also been unfairly and unlawfully processed.” The regulator is further examining claims that Cambridge Analytica was paid for “work on UKIP data in 2015, and that Leave.EU paid for this work.” Leave.EU was the main unofficial pro-Brexit group. The ICO served an information notice on UKIP but Ukip appealed to the information tribunal. That appeal has been dismissed and the regulator is awaiting UKIP’s response.
The report itself does not mention Russia but Ms. Denham told the FT that “some information was accessed from other countries, including Russia.” But she added: “That said, right now we are doing an investigation to see if the access was legitimate or not — many of the players in this story did work in Russia.”

Kremlin narratives on Skripal continue to grow online (Donara Barojan, DFRLab)
Pro-Kremlin narratives on the Skripal case dominate YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter

Vladimir Putin (Henry Meyer, Bloomberg)
He’s among the West’s most distrusted politicians, but at home in Russia, Vladimir Putin’s popularity is unrivaled. In a culture that admires strength, the president’s muscular style of nationalism resonates, as he flaunts his country’s “invincible” new nuclear weapons and defies the West over military interventions in Syria and Ukraine. In power longer than any Soviet leader other than dictator Joseph Stalin, he’s come to symbolize a concept of managed democracy and conservatism that values political strength over individual freedoms. His personal appeal has been tested by economic hardship caused by a fall in oil prices and sanctions provoked by his government’s assertive behavior. But his standing with Russians has hardly been dented.

Facebook: We’d catch Russia’s troll farm today (Cristiano Lima, Politico)
“John Hegeman, Facebook’s head of News Feed, told members of Team MT in a sit-down at the company’s D.C. HQ that Facebook would now spot a trolling operation on the level of Russia’s meddling Internet Research Agency, thanks to the scores of changes made to the site since election day 2016. “Would we catch 100 percent of everything they do? No,” said Hegeman. But with all the tweaks Facebook has since scrambled to make to limit the damage of bad information — from auto-detecting imposter accounts to working with third-party fact checkers — said Hegeman, “we would not be able to have something on the scale like [the IRA] today. We’d be able to prevent that.”

Facebook is testing a Messenger feature that would identify suspicious Russian accounts (Nick Statt, The Verge)
By letting users know the location of the phone number tied to the account and whether it was recently created

As Trump meets Putin, we’ll spotlight and resist Russian aggression (Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, USA Today)
As Donald Trump meets Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, we’ll be meeting with allies in Washington to show Russia its plans to divide and attack us won’t work.