The fact that Russia interfered with any election should be alarming for any democratic country. Today’s voters, however, remain convinced that Vladimir Putin has too little power to even remotely influence the people of the United States of America. In this instance, the polarization of the American people becomes the worry at hand.
Front groups with Russian interests made Facebook pages that were about the same hot-button topic, but on opposite ends of the political spectrum. For instance, on the matter of abortion, a single individual would make a pro-life page and another that was pro-choice and pump money into advertisements and exposure for both.
On a small scale, this can seem insignificant and petty. But the power of Facebook’s algorithm and the fact that it has 169.5 million users in the U.S. alone allows us to wrap our head around the dangers of a (roughly unregulated data-related) service designed to hold our attention for as long as possible.
In too many of the instances, fake news and weak arguments with a strong emotional take on the issue seemed to overpower posts and advertisements based on facts. These emotional takes usually involved slander of the opposing candidate or party views.
With this kind of inconsequential power, front groups made protests and counter-protests for both sides in the real world. People showed up to these rallies, uninformed on the true nature and intent of the event.
While Facebook wasn’t the only platform taken advantage of, the growth of Facebook has allowed for certain things, such as the protection of personal data, to be overlooked during its climb to prominence. The algorithm tracks pretty much everything you do while on Facebook and then regurgitates similar information to you, through ads and other sponsored posts, only entrenching voters deeper into their view while sprinkling a few false concepts and stretched truths.
In short, Russia didn’t win anybody an election. Russia just managed to make the lines that divide us wider and deeper. With 2020 on the horizon, the safety of politics and effective democracy is at risk.