After a week of grilling by Congress into social media's role in facilitating Russian interference in the 2016 election, it seems logical to also discover that Russia state banks funded venture capital investments in Twitter and Facebook before either company went public.
More pointedly, documents indicate that Yuri Milner, the venture capitalist who made the investments was connected to Russian banks and also to Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law.
The Guardian reports:
The investments were made through a Russian technology magnate, Yuri Milner, who also holds a stake in a company co-owned by Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser.
The discovery is likely to stir concerns over Russian influence in US politics and the role played by social media in last year’s presidential election. It may also raise new questions for the social media companies and for Kushner.
Alexander Vershbow, who was a US ambassador to Russia under George W Bush and to Nato under Bill Clinton, said the Russian state institutions were frequently used as “tools for Putin’s pet political projects”.
Vershbow said the findings were concerning in light of efforts by Moscow to disrupt US democracy and public debate. “There clearly was a wider plan, despite Putin’s protestations to the contrary,” he said.
As for Kushner:
The money flowed through investment vehicles controlled by Milner, who also invested in a startup in New York that Kushner co-owns with his brother. Kushner initially failed to disclose his own holding in the startup, Cadre, when he joined Trump’s White House.
Milner is quite the investor in Silicon Valley pet projects, with investments in over 30 online companies, including Airbnb, Spotify, Chinese sites Alibaba and JD.com. He once advised the Russian government on technology. Now he just buys tech companies using Russian rubles.
Milner claims, according to The Guardian, that the investments in Twitter did not buy influence. He was also surprised to discover that Gazprom Investholding had backed an investment in Facebook, but not to worry, America. They were just small parts of his overall investments and didn't amount to much other than a hefty profit when Twitter went public. No worries there.
As for Milner's relationship with Kushner, he says they only met once, telling reporters he "is not involved in any political activity. I’m not funding any political activity.”
Sure he isn't. But there's enough inside baseball there to know exactly how to manipulate these platforms, with or without Milner's direct involvement, much less Jared Kushner's.