October 9, 2017 Last Updated 8:26 am

Google reveals Russian-bought ads on its platforms; Former NYT correspondent says the paper killed Weinstein story in 2004

Morning Brief: Huge demonstration in Barcelona for continued Catalan union with Spain, but president of Generalitat still set to declare independence tomorrow for region despite threats by ruling party in Madrid

The extent and methods of Russian use of social media in the 2016 election is just becoming known, but with so many journalists and researchers looking into the matter it is no surprise that the story continues to grow, and we begin to learn more of the details of the effort.

The Russian effort is one of those things that was, and is, in plain sight, yet many either cannot see it or refuse to believe it. Any journalist on social media can see the trolls and bots but still tend to respond to them as if they were real people, or real readers. The reason may be simply that journalists are used to creating content for faceless readers and also used to getting negative feedback from many of those readers. It is not at all uncommon to see a reporter or columnist respond to a tweet in response to their own without checking to see if the person tweeting is a reader or paid responded, often failing to discover that they are tweeting to an account with few or no followers, who only tweets at the media.

The Washington Post, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Adam Entous:

Google uncovers Russian-bought ads on YouTube, Gmail and other platforms

The Silicon Valley giant has found that tens of thousands of dollars were spent on ads by Russian agents who aimed to spread disinformation across Google’s many products, which include YouTube, as well as advertising associated with Google search, Gmail, and the company’s DoubleClick ad network, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that have not been made public…

…The discovery by Google is also significant because the ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated troll farm that bought ads on Facebook — a sign that the Russian effort to spread disinformation online may be a much broader problem than Silicon Valley companies have unearthed so far.

Google previously downplayed the problem of Russian meddling on its platforms.

McClatchy DC, Greg Gordon and David Goldstein:

Russian propaganda engaged U.S. vets, troops on Twitter and Facebook, study finds

Russia has exploited social media networks to target current and former U.S. military personnel with propaganda, conspiracy theories and other misinformation, achieving “significant and persistent interactions” over Twitter during a one-month period last spring, a British research team found.

The Oxford University study, which traced the reach of three websites with clear ties to the Russian government, adds a new dimension to revelations of a Kremlin cyber campaign aimed at undermining Americans’ trust in democracy during last year’s U.S. elections and helping Donald Trump win the presidency.

“We’ve found an entire ecosystem of junk news about national security issues that is deliberately crafted for U.S. veterans and active military personnel,” said Philip Howard, a professor of internet studies who led the research. “It’s a complex blend of content with a Russian view of the world – wild rumors and conspiracies.”

The Washington Post: The notorious Kremlin-linked ‘troll farm’ and the Russians trying to take it down
CNN: Stoking Islamophobia and secession in Texas — from an office in Russia

Sunday saw a large demonstration in Barcelona of supporters of Catalunya remaining part of Spain. Estimates of the crowd varied from 350,000 to nearly a million, and many of the protesters came from outside the region, still the size of the demonstration was impressive.

Tomorrow, Carles Puigdemont, President of the Generalitat of Catalunya, is expected to declare Catalunya independent, a move that may bring further repression from Madrid including the jailing of regional officials and representatives. Neither side appears to be willing to back down, though the decision to make the declaration has been delayed somewhat.

Just how dire is the situation? Consider the story below. The headline is meaningless to outsiders, but if refers to Lluís Companys who was President of Catalunya from 1934 and to the Spanish Civil War. With the victory of the fascists he was exiled to France, but following the victory of the Germans, was arrested and sent to Spain where he was killed by firing squad.

The threat to the current president of the region, using the language that harkens back to fascist Spain, is a dark reminder that the issues regarding Catalunya involve not only regional efforts at autonomy, but a sign that the divisions created by the Spanish Civil War have never been healed. Spain, it should be remembered, is where fascism won, and was never defeated.

(The reference to the “PP” refers to the Partido Popular, or People’s Party, the conservative, Christian party which, though holding a minority of seats, controls the government through a coalition of other parties on the right.

El Paîs, Dani Sanchez Ugart:

The PP warns Puigdemont that if he declares independence he can end up as Companys in 1934

The PP warns Puigdemont that “I would not declare independence, because perhaps the one who declares it will end up as the one who declared it 83 years ago”, referring to the president of the Generalitat, Lluís Companys, who was arrested and imprisoned – and subsequently shot by the Franco regime, said the vice-secretary of communication of the PP, Pablo Casado. The Deputy Secretary said that “according to what happened at that time”, he was arrested, and “regarding who was shot or not shot, this party has no complex in making comparisons,” because those who are “encouraging violence are the separatists,” in an attempt to clarify that it did not refer to the execution.

Catalan News, ACN:

Suspending Catalonia’s self-government on the table, says Spanish VP

Catalonia might be just hours away from independence. Or at least, from a declaration stating that it is no longer a part of Spain. The Catalan president is set to explain how the referendum results will be implemented on Tuesday evening in the Parliament. But the pressure is mounting. The Spanish vice president, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, made clear on Monday that the suspension of Catalonia’s self-government is on the table in the event of a declaration of independence.

“If this man declares independence, we will need to take measures, and this will be for the Spanish government to decide,” said Sáenz de Santamaría. She did not rule out using Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which provides that Madrid can take control of any territory’s self-government if it “seriously attacks Spain’s interests”. She said that in order to use this provision, “a consensus among the political parties” is needed. The vice president said that the measures to be taken should “harm [the Catalan people] as little as possible”.

Looks like The New York Times has some explaining to do.

The paper broke a big exposé on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct last week, then its own media reporter wrote about how the media had enabled Weinstein’s behavior by failing to report on it. He apparently left out a detail, probably because he didn’t know, that the NYT was one of those enablers.

Sharon Waxman, CEO and Editor in Chief of The Wrap, was once the Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times, and she claims the paper had the goods on Weinstein back in 2004, but chose to edit out references to his behavior.

As Jim Rutenberg hints at in his own story about the media, the NYT may have finally published something about Weinstein now, not because they had the story, but because they feared being beaten to it by another publication.

The Wrap, Sharon Waxman:

‘Harvey Weinstein’s Media Enablers’? The New York Times Is One of Them

I also tracked down a woman in London who had been paid off after an unwanted sexual encounter with Weinstein. She was terrified to speak because of her non-disclosure agreement, but at least we had evidence of a pay-off.

The story I reported never ran.

After intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly to vouch for Lombardo and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times, the story was gutted.

I was told at the time that Weinstein had visited the newsroom in person to make his displeasure known. I knew he was a major advertiser in the Times, and that he was a powerful person overall.

The New York Times, Jim Rutenberg:

Harvey Weinstein’s Media Enablers

The real story didn’t surface until now because too many people in the intertwined news and entertainment industries had too much to gain from Mr. Weinstein for too long. Across a run of more than 30 years, he had the power to mint stars, to launch careers, to feed the ever-famished content beast. And he did so with quality films that won statuettes and made a whole lot of money for a whole lot of people…

…With the knowledge that the Times article was heading toward publication, and with word of a similar piece in the works at The New Yorker, Mr. Weinstein assembled an all-star team of crisis-management experts and lawyers that included Lisa Bloom. Ms. Bloom, who said earlier this week that she was working only as an “adviser” to Mr. Weinstein, said she resigned from her role Saturday. She is known for her work representing alleged (and often confirmed) victims of sexual harassment, including those who took on Mr. O’Reilly.

Photo Credits:
Lone Hacker in Warehouse by Brian Klug, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Catalan Demonstration: Quique Garcia, EFE

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