The 2016 election was the first time in history that goofy advertisements were considered an act of war. The frenzy on Capitol Hill over a smattering of Russian advertisements would be comical except that most of the American media has jumped on the hysteria bandwagon. The latest clamor is a stark warning to anyone who presumes that politicians are natural friends of freedom of speech.
Russian political advertisements amounted to only .004 percent of the total content that Facebook users saw last year in the United States. Russian ads on Facebook were clumsy and schizophrenic, hitting multiple sides of issues, and were often laughably simplistic (such as the “Jesus Punches Hillary” ad shown here).
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) November 1, 2017
Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) railed that “a dictator like Vladimir Putin abused flaws in our social media platforms to inject the worst kind of identity politics into the voting decisions of at least 100 million Americans.” This presumes that Russian ads had a mysterious power to zap the minds of Facebook users who perhaps had zero resistance after viewing too many cat videos. But my experience running a few ads on Facebook for one of my books found that it was a worse investment than buying used lottery tickets from a wino on the street corner.
Axios reporter Sara Fischer observed, “In the political advertising world, you would need to serve at least 7-10 viewable impressions to a person over a short window, two-four weeks, to even begin driving intent or action.”