Liberals' Russia Narrative Crumbles as They Rush to Regulate Online Speech

The narrative of Russian interference with the 2016 election that has been one of liberals' favorite tools to attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the Trump Presidency continues to crumble. 

Last week, we noted how the Department of Homeland Security had finally notified 21 states where they had evidence of Russian activity regarding their election systems.  Except now California and Wisconsin have been told that this was not actually true, and the election hacking narrative, which started with the Obama DHS, may collapse even further.

Now, Facebook has delivered ads purchased by Russians to Congress and issued some FAQs about them, including these revealing facts (emphasis added):

  • An estimated 10 million people in the US saw the ads. We were able to approximate the number of unique people (“reach”) who saw at least one of these ads, with our best modeling [RNLA note: The number of registered voters during the 2016 election was over 157 million and the total citizens of voting age was over 224 million.] 
  • 44% of total ad impressions (number of times ads were displayed) were before the US election on November 8, 2016; 56% were after the election. 
  • Roughly 25% of the ads were never shown to anyone. That’s because advertising auctions are designed so that ads reach people based on relevance, and certain ads may not reach anyone as a result. 
  • For 50% of the ads, less than $3 was spent; for 99% of the ads, less than $1,000 was spent.

But, before their narrative completely crumbles, liberals are rushing to use it as an excuse to regulate online speech, which has long been a goal of campaign finance "reformers" such as former FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel, who advocated overturning the FEC's longstanding exemption of internet activity from certain regulations to apply the regulations to conservative YouTube videos ex post.  Liberal outletQuartz recently demonstrated how the "reform" community is using the Russian Facebook ads as a pretext to argue for government control of speech by American citizens on the internet (while non-ironically lamenting that Facebook had failed to reach out to any "experts" in the "reform" community as it amended its ad policies).  And Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner are expected to introduce legislation to regulate political advertising online soon (more on that here once it is introduced).

FEC Commissioner Lee Goodman's TechFreedom podcast on these issues, that we highlighted on Monday, summarizes the serious constitutional dangers with the liberals' rush to regulate and what factors should be considered in a more measured approach that respects Americans' important political speech rights on the internet.