Facebook: Russia purchased a lot of ads during the 2016 election

The ads promoted "divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum," Facebook said

Published September 7, 2017 7:42AM (EDT)

 (Getty/Sean Gallup)
(Getty/Sean Gallup)

Facebook revealed on Wednesday that, after conducting an internal review, it discovered extensive Russia-connected efforts to influence American political discourse during the 2016 presidential election.

In a post on the site's newsroom, Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said that the site had found "approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017 — associated with roughly 3,000 ads — that was connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies."

He added, "Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia."

Stamos said the ads for the inauthentic pages were shut down, and he provided details about them. Most of them "didn’t specifically reference the U.S. presidential election, voting or a particular candidate" but instead tried to promote internal discord by "amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights." He also noted that "about one-quarter of these ads were geographically targeted, and of those, more ran in 2015 than 2016."

Finally, Stamos wrote that Facebook also discovered "approximately $50,000 in potentially politically related ad spending on roughly 2,200 ads" that may have originated from Russia but had weaker signals of connection and could not be linked to any known organized effort.

Facebook said that it believes the fake accounts behind these ads were created by a Russian company called the Internet Research Agency, which is known for using "troll" accounts, according to The New York Times. The company has briefed the Senate and House intelligence committees on their findings, since both are in the process of investigating Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

According to the House committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, Facebook's report "certainly quantifies the Russian use of at least one social media platform with a level of granularity that we did not have before."


By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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2016 Presidential Election Bots Donald Trump Facebook Hillary Clinton Russia