Facebook Inc. said it has identified about 500 “inauthentic” accounts responsible for U$100,000 in advertising spending that it believes have ties to Russia, after a review of ad buying on the site in response to intelligence community concerns about Russian activity during the 2016 election, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The findings mark the first time that Facebook has acknowledged that Russian actors may have used its platform during the presidential campaign. The conclusion is a shift from July, when a Facebook spokesman said the company had no evidence that Russian entities bought ads targeted at Americans on the platform during the election season.
The social media giant said Wednesday that the ads it identified didn’t typically reference any particular political candidate. Rather, the company review found that the ads focused on “amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum—touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”
Facebook officials provided their findings to House and Senate investigators looking into Russian interference in the presidential election, according to people familiar with the matter.
For months, congressional investigators have been probing potential links between Russian actors and the Trump campaign’s efforts to craft messages and ads to key voters. Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said he is particularly interested in whether social media networks were used to target false or misleading stories at voters in swing districts.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said he would seek further details from Facebook, particularly about how ads were geographically targeted, as the committee investigates Russian interference and whether any US persons assisted in Russia’s social media efforts. “I think that this report is useful as a jumping off point,” he said. “I don’t think by any means it’s the first or last word on the subject.”
Moscow has denied meddling in the US election, and President Donald Trump has denied his campaign colluded with Russia and has called the Russia controversy a “witch hunt”.
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