At the same time that Facebook was carrying fake news from Russians trying to influence the U.S. presidential election, Russia’s version of Facebook – which has an estimated 100 million users worldwide – was connecting with the Trump campaign about using their service to promote his campaign to Russians in America.
After weeks of rumors, there is now confirmation that the Russian social media giant Vkontakte (aka VK) has provided Senate Judiciary Committee investigators with information about contacts between their company and the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump Jr, according to Talking Points Memo (TPM).
“The Russian tech firm appears to be cooperating with the Senate Judiciary Committee by providing documents related to communications between Russian nationals and Dan Scavino, a Trump campaign staffer who now works as the White House social media director,” reports TPM.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, confirmed today she has sent letters asking for more information to Scaviono and Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign’s digital director.
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“The committee has received information that you may have corresponded with Russian nationals regarding Trump campaign social media efforts,” Feinstein wrote in her letters.
In 2016, Konstantin Sidorkov, VK’s director of partnership marketing, contacted Scavino, who responded that he wanted more information, the Washington Post first reported last month.
Along with Scavino, Sidorkov contacted Donald Trump Jr., who said he forwarded the query email to Scavino. “Scavino expressed interest,” the Washington Post reported, “but it isn’t clear that the conversation progressed beyond that introduction.”
“Investigators for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and several congressional committees are scrutinizing those contacts as part of their examinations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign,” reported the Washington Post.
VK in Russian has a big presence in Europe as well, where it has been embraced by white nationalist groups. It is said to be read and used by Russians in the U.S. as well.
Curiously, Scavino’s liaison with VK was British music publicist Rob Goldstone, who became infamous for brokering the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a lawyer linked to Putin and the Kremlin, among others.
Russian social media monolith Vkontakte has provided information to the Senate Judiciary Committee a… https://t.co/roJqr3XOF5
— Miss Cleo (@ImMissCleo) January 4, 2018
Goldstone sent an email about VK to Trump Jr. in early 2016, an attorney for the president’s son, Alan S. Futerfas, confirmed. Futerfas added that was the last discussion he could recall about using VK.
The name of VK translates to “in contact.” Russia’s most popular social media site is owned by Russian Internet giant Mail.Ru.Group, which is a publicly traded company.
VK is a “hugely popular social media platform,” Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalist at Columbia University told The Washington Post, “and an excellent tool to connect with Russian expats and Russian speaking audiences.”
The Senate committee is now expected to sort through the information and determine if it is relevant to the larger investigation into Russian interference in the election and any collusion with the Trump campaign.
While its importance is still unknown, today’s development is another indication of the keen interest the Russians had in the American election and their preference for Trump over Secretary Hillary Clinton.