At Intersection of Russia Probe and Social Media: Trump’s Digital Chief

“This was a data crime that occurred, carried out at least by Russia, possibly with cooperation with Trump campaign officials, so any Trump campaign official that worked on data, I think, would be relevant to talk to,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Spokesmen for Facebook and Twitter have said they are looking to bolster transparency and toughen safeguards against improper use of their platforms.

Facebook is set to participate in public hearings on Nov. 1 held by the House and Senate Intelligence committees. Twitter and Google will take part in the Senate hearing.

The House panel also has contacted Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics company paid $5 million by the Trump campaign last year that worked together with Mr. Parscale’s firm, for information related to the Russia probe, a Cambridge Analytica spokesman said.

The House panel referred questions to the company, whose spokesman said it would fully cooperate with the probe but added that Cambridge Analytica itself isn’t under investigation. “There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the company,” he said.

[Although Cambridge Analytica has not yet filed as a foreign agent under FARA, its parent company SCL Social, Ltd. has, as of October 6, 2017, for efforts to engineer an anti-Qatar campaign on behalf of the National Media Council of UAE.

On March 27 2017,  Andreae & Associates filed a FARA registration for lobbying on behalf of SCL Social (Romania).

In 2005-2006, in the space of less than a year, SCL’s timeline looks like:

  • SCL worked somewhere in the middle of the famed Orange Revolution, with Russia on one side and Ukraine on the other
  • SCL acquired a new 23% major shareholder, Iran expat Vincent Tchenguiz, injecting big cash flow

— Tchenguiz was hanging out with who is now the most infamous modern-day Russian spy, hero, and pro-Crimean-rebel mascot, Anna Chapman, in 2005–6

— Tchenguiz did a little business in Libya with Orange Revolution antagonist and accused Kremlin/Bratva intermediary Dmytro Firtash in 2005–6

The White House referred questions to Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, which declined to comment.

While broadcast stations are required to disclose to the Federal Communications Commission how much they earn from political campaigns and groups and where those dollars are directed, social-media companies don’t have to disclose what share of their advertising revenue comes from political ads.

Facebook has turned over the Russia-backed ads to congressional investigators and the House Intelligence Committee has said it will make them public soon. Facebook said in a statement earlier this month that it is “building new tools” that would allow users to see ads run by a specific individual or group, even if those ads aren’t targeted to that particular user.

Steven Passwaiter, vice president at Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks political advertising, said his firm is planning to track digital ads for the first time this year, but won’t be able to include ads on social-media platforms such as Facebook, the primary platform used by the Trump campaign.

“Facebook is a walled garden,” said Mr. Passwaiter. “You really don’t get the ability to look in.”

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