Facebook just confirmed it made money from Russia-based political ads

Nettie James
September 8, 2017

Most of the ads run by the accounts didn't directly reference the U.S. presidential election, voting, or particular candidates but instead appeared focused on "amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum", according to Stamos.

An unnamed Facebook employee went as far as to mention unspecified connections between the ads and something known as a "troll factory" in St. Petersburg, often mentioned by Western mainstream media as the source of Russian "propaganda" on social media. The people were granted anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss details of the investigation.

Between June 2015 and May 2017, 470 accounts bought ads touting fake or misleading news or directing users to pages with such content, a Facebook official said.

The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn't specifically reference the U.S. presidential election, voting or a particular candidate.

Warner said he wants the committee to meet with representatives of Facebook, Twitter, Google and other online giants to see what can be done to prevent social media sites from being used as tools by foreign adversaries to meddle in future US elections.

Regardless, this news is the latest evidence that Russian Federation tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, something that the U.S. intelligence committee has publicly believed since at least January of this year.

"He also said his committee is no closer to answering the "$64 million dollar question": "if the Russians behind the ads received any guidance from Americans involved in the election. He did not say when a meeting with representatives from Twitter might occur other than "soon".

Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos gives a keynote address during the Black Hat information security conference in Las Vegas Nevada
Image Facebook's Alex Stamos says the fake accounts have been shut down

Facebook reportedly informed congressional investigators about the ads on Wednesday, according to media, including The Washington Post and the Miami Herald.

In another possible sign of attempted foreign interference in the US presidential election, Facebook Inc. revealed on Wednesday that it's likely a Russian operation spent $100,000 on ads to promote certain views to targeted USA citizens.

Facebook's findings affirm the conclusions of USA intelligence agencies, which issued a 14-page declassified assessment in January.

While, according to Stamos, these pages were considered to be "likely operated" out of Russian Federation, his report did not cite any concrete ties to Moscow. Now it has revealed a few ad dealings that happened during the election.

It's illegal for foreign individuals or governments to make contributions to candidates in American elections and to spend money advocating for one candidate over another, according to Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine.

Facebook suspects the ads were meant to spread divisive messages that would polarize public opinion even more.

We know we have to stay vigilant to keep ahead of people who try to misuse our platform. "So now we need to see if there are dots that connect", he said. After the election, it updated its advertising policy to say it wouldn't run spots that are "illegal, misleading or deceptive, which includes fake news".

Other reports by Insurance News

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