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Twitter Tracker: Why Trump Is Going After Facebook

Variety dissects the inspiration and meaning behind one of President Donald Trump’s tweets.

Today’s tweet:

What’s behind it: Facebook is under increasing scrutiny from Washington lawmakers over whether its platform was used by Russian interests to influence the 2016 presidential election. On Tuesday, Politico reported that some of the ads from Russian sources were critical of Hillary Clinton while promoting Trump, in addition to ads that were pro-Jill Stein. There is no indication that any of the candidates were aware of the placements, Politico reported.

Trump is irked by any idea that his election is in any way illegitimate, and, in his latest tweet, seemed to reflect that and his frustration over the ongoing investigation of whether there was any coordination between members of his campaign and Russian interests.

Why Now: The story isn’t going away. Facebook has shared the ads with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian election interference, and has been cooperating with the Senate Intelligence Committee, the company has said. But some lawmakers, including Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), has said that there are ongoing questions of just how the Russian sources knew who and where to target their spots. There also have been calls for the ads to be released publicly.

Facebook has said that the ads, numbering at least 3,000, were largely issue-oriented spots on divisive topics, but Warner and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), have said that they want company representatives and executives from other internet firms to elaborate in a public hearing.

The fallout: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg last week appeared in a livestream in which he said that the company would cooperate with investigators, and the site also outlined a series of steps it is taking to try to require greater disclosure for political ads. But Warner and another senator, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), have been working on legislation to require greater transparency for political spots on social media platforms.

Trump may be trying to lump Facebook in with a number of other media entities he considers foes, but as we are seeing, social media sites are a different thing. The president may have not liked all that he saw on Facebook, and he and Zuckerberg certainly do not share the same political views on issues like immigration. When he was Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon even suggested that Facebook should be treated like a utility.

But Trump’s campaign also used Facebook to its advantage, to the point of even running its own coverage over campaign events on Facebook Live. If he’s suggesting that the Russians also bought anti-Trump spots, that is something that presumably will come up as the investigation continues.

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