Facebook finds Russian ads that sought to sow division during U.S. election

Sep 07, 2017, 01:56
Facebook finds Russian ads that sought to sow division during U.S. election

Facebook said it sold ads to "inauthentic" accounts likely linked to Russian Federation.

Facebook have revealed that hundreds of Russian accounts paid for political adverts on the social media platform during the U.S. 2016 presidential election campaign.

Facebook teams then discovered 470 suspicious and likely fraudulent Facebook accounts and pages that it believes operated out of Russian Federation, had links to the company and were involved in promoting the ads.

The company said $100,000 (£77,000) was spent on about 3,000 ads over a two-year period, ending in May 2017.

"We have shared our findings with U.S. authorities investigating these issues, and we will continue to work with them as necessary", Facebook's Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said in a statement.

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Beyond the issue ads, Facebook said it uncovered another $50,000 in political advertising that might have a link to Russian Federation.

Facebook, which offers a sophisticated level of targeting to advertisers, has been in the center of a storm over the role that it played in propagating fake news and other misleading information during the campaign.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded at the start of the year that Russia's interference in the 2016 election had included using paid social media trolls to spread fake news meant to sway public opinion.

She declined to comment on the Facebook ads, saying she could not comment on subjects that could come before the agency. "Our data policy and federal law limit our ability to share user data and content, so we won't be releasing any ads".

Mr Stamos said that Facebook had also looked for adverts that may have originated in Russian Federation, even those with "very weak signals of a connection and not associated with any known organised effort".

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"We know we have to stay vigilant to keep ahead of people who try to misuse our platform", Stamos wrote.

Facebook said the "inauthentic" accounts that bought the ads had been suspended.

But the findings buttress US intelligence agency conclusions that Russian Federation was actively involved in shaping the election. In that review, about 2,200 ads - amounting to $50,000 in spending - were purchased from accounts that had U.S. Internet Protocol (IP) addresses but had a language set to Russian.

Not all politically-related advertising by foreigners is illegal in America.

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