Facebook: Russian-linked accounts bought $150000 in ads during 2016 campaign

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook reps told congressional investigators Wednesday that it had unwittingly sold ads during the presidential election to a Russian company that was targeting voters, a new report said Wednesday.

Facebook has told investigators that it discovered thousands of political ads published on its platform over the past two years were linked to fake accounts based in Russian Federation.

According to Facebook, the majority of the ads did not reference either of the two presidential candidates previous year but were largely promoting divisive social issues, like immigration and gun control.

About one-quarter of these ads were geographically targeted, and of those, more ran in 2015 than 2016.

According to the Post, Facebook has told USA congressional investigators that it sold the ads to a "Russian troll farm" that has a history of "pro-Kremlin" propaganda. The company was also criticized for not only doing enough to stop the spread of fake news.

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A quarter of the Russian-linked ads were also geographically targeted at specific Facebook audiences in the US, and majority ran in 2015 before the first primaries and caucuses when the GOP and Democratic presidential fields were still packed with multiple candidates.

Some 470 accounts spent a total of approximately $100,000 between June 2015 to May 2017 on ads that touted fake or misleading news or drove traffic to pages with such messages, a Facebook official said.

The ad spending from the Russian outfit was dwarfed by overall spending - but investigators will now focus on whether Russia was following orders from someone inside the U.S., the paper said. One question that has emerged is whether there's a connection between the Russian efforts and ads purchased on Facebook.

Facebook said it was cooperating with inquiries by Congress into whether Russian Federation sought to influence the election.

Facebook has shared its findings with USA authorities.

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The company found that 3,300 ads had digital footprints that led to the Russian firm.

"We don't allow inauthentic accounts on Facebook, and as a result, we have since shut down the accounts and pages we identified that were still active". The Washington Post reported that Facebook traced the fake accounts to a Russian "troll farm" that has a history of promoting Russian propaganda.

Facebook said it is sharing its findings with U.S. authorities.

In its unclassified report in January, the USA intelligence community concluded that the Internet Research Agency's "likely financier" is a "close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence".

US intelligence officials have determined the Kremlin used social media and fake news reports to interfere in the election.

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