In 11/2018, I helped investigate America Progress Now (APN), a shady group running Green Party ads in swing districts. Other employees quickly determined that the group was run by US conservative operatives.

FB failed to act before the election. (1/15)…
The episode attracted the attention of the press at the time. My role was minor; others did the real work.

FB did finally act after the election... to warn the perpetrators their duplicate accounts would be disabled. Mission accomplished, we said. (2/15)…
Although the world had no idea, FB knew the page was controlled by three people. They were using duplicate accounts - e.g. @duncan_colton created a "CG Duncan" account.

As they sent FB their personal ID for ad verification, this apparent obfuscation was not effective. (3/15)
Ultimately, APN was run by Rally Forge (RF), a conservative marketing group closely tied to @TPUSA, which was eventually banned from FB in 2020 for disinformation.
One wonders if RF would have escalated to troll farms, had FB deterred them in 2018. (4/15)…
In 2019, @CampaignLegal filed a complaint with the @FEC. APN had never reported its spending and funding to the FEC. As a result, the world still did not know who was responsible for the advertising. (5/15)…
The next year, Mr. Evan Muhlstein came forward, took responsibility for creating the page and placing the ads, and apologized. "Muhlstein states that any errors were due to his inexperience", the FEC wrote in 2020 while dismissing the complaint. (6/15)…
@txelectionlaw criticized @CampaignLegal: "There evidence to support [their] salacious theories about the “unknown person or persons” behind APN."

But the only evidence was held by the perpetrators and FB workers under nondisclosure (7/15)…
Facebook knew three people controlled the America Progress Now page, placing the ads and financing them out of an ads account. Their accounts had been verified with ID.

Mr. Evan Muhlstein was not one of them.

I'm not a lawyer. But lying to a court is generally a crime (8/15)
@txelectionlaw took Muhlstein's statement at his word.

This is how official proceedings work - testimony is believed until contradicted. The consequence for perverting justice must be severe to dissuade lying. If deception is permitted, courts will be unable to trust. (9/15)
This shouldn't be a partisan issue.

In 2018, the Indiana Democratic Party openly ran ads (with disclosure) supporting the Libertarian candidate. If they were "smarter" like APN, they'd have set up a phony libertarian group to hide their tracks. (10/15)…
Lying to courts is one of the oldest crimes in history. "Thou shalt not bear false witness" is the 9th Commandment in the Old Testament.

Courts cannot scrutinize every statement for truth. Perjury perverts the course of justice, poisons the well for future testimony. (11/15)
"There is no excuse for perjury - never, never, never. There is truth, and the truth demands respect." - Ken Starr

Muhlstein may claim he simply omitted Rally Forge's role. This sort of quibble is how we get to "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is." (12/15)
In the end, this is a story about Facebook, the FEC, and broken systems.

Facebook says it's made improvements since, which is true. It's cold comfort for their failure to protect American democracy in this 2018 case. As they say, justice delayed is justice denied. (13/15)
Meanwhile, there's no sign the FEC asked FB to confirm Muhlstein had administered the page.

It's quite possible that FB would have blown the FEC off. But many employees were upset over this case, and may have come forward if asked. I would likely have if I'd known. (14/15)
Anyone who becomes aware of the possible commission of a serious crime has a responsibility to come forward. Perjury and obstruction of justice are so serious, we impeached a President for it.

Now it's time for the @FEC to prove that perverting justice has consequences. (15/15)
And kind thanks to @juliacarriew for her tireless effort investigating this story for the last few months. I hadn't even known about the @FEC case or @CampaignLegal's suit until she dug it up earlier this year.

She really deserves an award for all the hard work.

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More from @szhang_ds

9 Jun
Many security experts are familiar with compromised accounts - when someone unauthorized obtains account access.

A major issue at FB/IG was self-compromised accounts: People willingly hand over account access to others, as I write in @restofworld (1/7)…
Why would someone choose to give a nefarious third party access to their account?

Services known as "autolikers" are popular in much of the world. They offer the user free automatic likes. All you have to do is hand over your access token - letting them login as yourself (2/7)
This behavior is perhaps the main driver behind commercial fake engagement online. It's the activity @sebastian_bay at @STRATCOMCOE investigated in 2019. But it shouldn't be confused with what Facebook calls CIB - governmental style troll farms. (3/7)…
Read 7 tweets
19 Apr
It might be surprising to others that I felt so strongly about protecting democracy worldwide, when I'm just a silly Chinese-American girl who doesn't even like leaving her house.

But I firmly believe that everyone deserves equal protection of law - regardless of nation. (1/4)
I realize that it's a fact of life that everyone cares more about their own nation; to the average Western audience, a dozen deaths in the US are treated far more seriously than hundreds in Myanmar. 300 million Americans are considered more important than 1 billion Indians. (2/4)
But it's also the nature of the world that value judgments change over time.

As a daughter of Chinese immigrants, my becoming a U.S. citizen was illegal until 150 years ago. Eight score years ago, slavery was commonplace in the United States; today we find it anathema. (3/4)
Read 4 tweets
17 Apr
Facebook will say that I'm seeking attention. I never wanted attention - to face threats from powerful companies, to anger multiple powerful political figures throughout the world. Why would anyone want that?

I wanted to stay home and pet my cats. They are very good cats. Image
But we all have to do things in life that we never wanted. I'm sure Navalny didn't want to return home to the arms of a government who wished to murder him. Tsikhanouskaya was a housewife, why would she wish to be banished from Belarus?

What I've risked is nothing in comparison.
Changing the world is hard. In Myanmar, Khin Myo Chit was killed at the age of six years old. She was no threat at all to the military regime that murdered her.

The world won't improve unless we work together. I'm just a silly American trying to help.…
Read 4 tweets
15 Apr
I fought tooth and nail at Facebook for justice, because I knew the company would never have carried out my work without me. I thought it was my responsibility to do my utmost to protect the sanctity of the world's largest democracy.

FB disagreed. (1/6)…
The @BJP4India politician's network was tiny and silly compared to what I saw in AZ and HN. I wouldn't consider it newsworthy, if it weren't for the fact that we were ready to take it down - approval had been given.

Then I found the BJP connection - and everything stopped. (2/6)
FB had more than a week to get their story straight. They couldn't even manage that.

Even in the best case for Facebook, if you believe them completely, they lied to the press through incompetence or deceit, and took half a year to act on the network. (3/6)
Read 6 tweets
13 Apr
I was naïve and silly when I caught Honduran President @JuanOrlandoH red-handed. I thought I'd hand it over, the right teams would take care of it, and I could get back to my actual job.
Instead, it was the beginning of a Sisyphean 2-year struggle (1/6)…
FB wasn't too surprised at the revelation. When I presented the situation to public policy leaders in 2018, one of them explained that he'd already been told socially by Hernandez's political consultants that they used troll farms.

That should have been my first red flag. (2/6)
But to me this was shocking. I was only half a year into a low-level DS job. I spoke no Spanish, had never visited Latin America, knew nothing about who this Juan Orlando Hernandez chap was until I Googled him.

I still caught him red-handed. He didn't care to hide. (3/6)
Read 6 tweets
13 Apr
I was only 28 when I discovered the Azerbaijani network. I spoke no Azeri, had never been within a thousand miles of the country, and didn't know who Ilham Aliyev was without Google.

The Azeri government was still incompetent enough to be caught.…
I do want to highlight Facebook's response

Facebook PR implies that I'm lying - but can't find any mistakes with my details. They left the recidivists to return for months, but did a takedown as soon as it entered the press.

Yet more proof that FB prioritizes PR over integrity.
To any Azeri readers,

I can only imagine how saddening this must be for you. Not only does your government manipulate and harass you, they were utterly incompetent at it as well.

Even a small child knows to hide when they act badly. Aliyev must have been too spoiled to learn.
Read 8 tweets

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