ST. PETERSBURG — There's a place you can go online right now where you can find out what shadowy cyber Russian political operatives want you to be thinking about and talking about.
The bipartisan group Alliance for Securing Democracy tracks hundreds of Russian bots, people, and groups who are still - right now - trying to actively influence your thinking.
So let's see what Russia wants to get trending online.
You've got the story hashtag Donna Brazile, iamhillary, maga, ISIS, Syria -- those are the topics they want you to talk about.
What you don't see? Anything about the Manafort indictment.
Some of these are real stories, some of them are fake, but all of them are being used to muddy your social media feed and shape your thinking about current issues.
So, do these posts, especially political ads on Facebook, work?
Nightside reporter Mark Rivera sat down with Barry Edwards, a local political operative who uses Facebook ads to help people get elected. He says, yes. These ads work.
EDWARDS: Donald Trump would not be president of the United States if Facebook ads were not available.
RIVERA: How specific, how granular can some of these ads get targeting you?
EDWARDS: They could find out through all of their social media watching an analysis of you that you care about healthcare. So you're going to get a health care ad every day, and they find out that you really like blue. So (you're) going to get a blue healthcare ad with a picture of Hillary Clinton scowling and saying "deplorables," or something like that, packaged specifically for you, but they were able to come up with programs that make 55,000 to 100,000 ads per day. So it’s that granular.
The purpose is not to necessarily sway it to one side or the other. The whole purpose of the Russian interference is to try and sow discord and delegitimize democratic institutions in the West so that we are fighting amongst ourselves rather than focusing on what they're doing.
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