Facebook Sold Political Ads to Fake Accounts Linked to Russian Federation

Facebook says shadowy Russian group spent $100000 on 'divisive' adverts during US election

Facebook indicated that almost 500 fake accounts purchased roughly 3,000 political ads between June 2015 and May 2017, according to Alex Stamos, Facebook's chief security officer.

In a statement confirming the Post's story, Facebook's Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said that a quarter of the ads in question were geographically targeted and that more had run in 2015 than in 2016.

Facebook said Wednesday that phony accounts that appear to have originated in Russian Federation bought $100,000 worth of advertisements during the 2016 USA presidential campaign and in the months following the election. In a blog post entitled "An update on Information Operations of Facebook" (they really need to work on their clickbait headlines), the company revealed that around $100,000 in ad buys seemed to originate from almost 500 affiliated accounts "likely operated out of Russia".

Facebook said it has shut down remaining active accounts and is looking at steps to avoid similar problems in the future. These are the officials who are investigating Russian interference in the USA presidential election.

A Facebook employee said Wednesday that there were unspecified connections between the divisive ads and a well-known Russian "troll factory" in St. Petersburg that publishes comments on social media.

Huge tech platforms like Facebook and Google increasingly control the flow and dissemination of news and information around the world, and revelations like this give cause for more skepticism about the source and quality of news on social media. The two committees have lately been conducting probes into the alleged Russian interference that is believed to have tilted the 2016 US election.

If the Facebook ad spending was done "completely independently of any campaign" and didn't express any advocacy or didn't pursue TV or radio ads, which have restrictions, "then it may not be illegal", he said.

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"In this latest review, we also looked for ads that might have originated in Russian Federation - even those with very weak signals of a connection and not associated with any known organized effort", Stamos wrote. There have been claims that there was indeed a collusion between Moscow and the heated up campaign of President Donald Trump.

Warner said he believes the universe of ads and fake accounts is much larger than what Facebook disclosed today.

And Facebook plays an outsized role in delivering news to Americans - 67 percent of American adults use the site, and 44 percent of USA adults get news on the social network, according to a Pew Research Center survey from 2016.

"Russian-funded campaign to promote divisive social and political messages" on Facebook has been uncovered, the BBC has reported.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said Facebook's disclosure confirmed the suspicions of lawmakers investigating Russian interference.

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

"We're constantly updating our efforts in this area [and] will continue to invest in our people and technology to help provide a safe place for civic discourse and meaningful connections", he added.

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