June 12, 2017 Last Updated 7:28 am

Daily News points to Trump billionaire supporter as source of Twitter bots; Low turnout for Puerto Rico statehood vote

Morning Brief: Turnout was fairly low in France, as well, as voters overwhelming selected President Emmanuel Macron’s new party in the first round of parliamentary elections

The weekend was strangely quiet compared to many this year, with the president off golfing and schmoozing with guests at his property in New Jersey. Meanwhile, the Attorney General is scheduled to testify before a Congressional committee on Tuesday, though there is no expectation that Jeff Sessions will tell the truth as he has already been caught lying to Congress about contacts with the Russians during his confirmation hearing.

A story that did break over the weekend, though, seems to be light on many details: that Republican mega-donor Robert Mercer is the man financing the bot campaign in support of the president.

But the real problem is that Twitter has yet to create much of a verification system, allowing the quick establishment of new accounts by those wishing to weaponize Twitter. One incentive for Twitter’s management team for allowing this is that investors are constantly looking at user growth as an indication that Twitter is succeeding, a meaningless indicator when so many of these accounts are obviously fake.

NY Daily News, Adam Edelman:

The billionaire GOP patron behind Trump’s social media bot army

A GOP donor who once had ties to IBM is the man behind the millions of Twitter bots President Trump counts on as followers who could be employed to target voters with misleading or fake news on social media.

In order for it to work, the scheme relies on the quiet guidance of Robert Mercer, a reclusive Republican mega-donor and staunch Trump supporter, sources told the Daily News…

…Trump, meanwhile, has accrued among his 30 million Twitter followers — 15 million of which are actually bots that experts have told the Daily News could be “weaponized” to spread fake and misleading news stories that favor the White House or distract from the scandals it now faces.

But with the subtle introduction of advanced technology, by individuals familiar with artificial intelligence, their effectiveness as it pertains to targeting users and interacting with them could escalate rapidly.



There were two elections this weekend worth noting. In France, voters overwhelmingly supported Emmanuel Macron’s new party. The vote is in two phases whereby voters vote for their local candidates, then return to the polls next Sunday in the runoff election between the leading candidates.

While Macron’s En Marche! (LRM) party is seen as the big winner on Sunday, Marine Le Pen’s National Front may be seen as the big loser.

The New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin:

Emmanuel Macron’s Party on Track to Claim Majority in France’s Parliament

French voters resoundingly embraced the still untested party of the newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron, in Sunday’s first round of parliamentary elections, dealing another humiliating blow to France’s traditional parties.

Based on returns from 97 percent of France’s 577 districts, it appeared likely that candidates for Mr. Macron’s party, La République en Marche, would receive 28 percent of the votes for the National Assembly, the powerful lower house of Parliament, meaning that it appears on track to win a majority of seats, according to the Interior Ministry website.

AFP:

Le Pen’s far-right surge runs out of steam in France’s parliamentary elections

Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front suffered a severe setback on Sunday, as her success in reaching the French presidential runoff failed to translate into support in parliamentary polls…

…Le Pen blamed what she called a skewed electoral system that encouraged a record low turnout after projections showed that FN candidates scored between 13 and 14 percent of the vote. She pointed to the fact that only around 49 percent of the electorate cast a ballot on Sunday — the lowest level in a parliamentary election in France for six decades.

“This catastrophic abstention rate should raise the question of the voting rules which keep millions of our compatriots away from the polling stations,” the 48-year-old said.

Le Monde, Jérôme Fenoglio:

Macron and the challenges of hegemony

“Let him have a chance,” implored the supporters of Emmanuel Macron in unison before these legislative elections. They were heard, far beyond their expectations. In a week, the new President of the Republic should have every chance to carry out his policy. His party has reproduced its own trajectory, dazzling.

The République en Marche (LRM), which did not exist sixteen months ago, is about to become the dominate party in France, at least in the National Assembly. There will hardly be any opposition: the right represents half as much as before, the PS is moribund, the FN in very sharp retreat. Moreover, many of the survivors of this first round rout, Socialist or Republican, declared themselves compatible with the presidential project, and ready to support it.



While voter turnout in France was low, at least compared to May’s dramatic presidential election, turnout in Puerto Rico is minimal. Why? The territory was voting on a meaningless referendum regarding statehood.

Puerto Rico has been a US territory since 1898, when, following the Spanish-American War, it was ceded to the US. The territory has voted on statehood several times in the past, with varied results. But this time, following Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy declaration, and with $74 billion of debt and $49 billion in pension obligations, the territory is looking for support. ‘

It won’t get it.

The New York Times, Frances Robles:

23% of Puerto Ricans Vote in Referendum, 97% of Them for Statehood

With nearly all of the precincts reporting, 97 percent of the ballots cast were in favor of statehood, a landslide critics said indicated that only statehood supporters had turned out to the polls. Opposition parties who prefer independence or remaining a territory boycotted the special election, which they considered rigged in favor of statehood.

On an island where voter participation often hovers around 80 percent, just 23 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Voting stations accustomed to long lines were virtually empty on Sunday.

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