Russia-linked groups bought $50000 in political Facebook ads

Facebook said that "about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies" bought roughly 3,000 Facebook ads between June 2015 and May 2017.

A Russian company that created fake accounts and pages purchased $100,000 worth of advertising during the USA election past year, the company said.

Multiple investigations - of the Congressional and Justice Department varieties - continue into Russia's interference with the US election, and Facebook has now confirmed one piece of the puzzle after months of apparent resistance by the social media platform.

First, it confirms that Facebook was one of the pathways by which Russian operatives sought to influence the US election.

The post was written by its chief security officer and said that it was cooperating with federal inquiries into influence operations during the presidential election. Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.) of the House Intelligence Committee deemed the data provided by Facebook as "very significant" to the investigations and said they constituted a "profound warning".

They also told investigators that the fake accounts were created by the Internet Research Agency, a so-called "troll farm" in St. Petersburg with ties to the Russian government.

The majority of the 3,000 ads referenced "divisive social and political messages" rather than directly mentioning US election topics.

Neither the WP report nor Facebook's official confirmation answered exactly how many users were reached by these ads. The ads focused on "amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum" and used techniques Facebook previously identified as those used by disinformation campaigns, Stamos said.

Stamos said the company had shut down the remaining accounts that had still been active, but did not say when that had happened or how many had actually been active. While the blog post Facebook published about the ad buys appeared to downplay their significance, they could draw the company into investigations by Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller. As the Post's story notes, it's illegal for foreign nationals or governments to buy ads or spend money aimed at influencing a USA election. Moreover, Facebook's disclosure provides evidence that Russian Federation tampered with and helped to influence, the United States election.

Facebook's revelation could also trigger calls for greater public disclosure of the sources of political spending.

Any ad purchases as described by this WP report would violate FEC rules prohibiting foreign nationals and governments from either spending money or making contributions that influence U.S. elections on the federal, state, or local level.

  • Zachary Reyes