Facebook admits it has a big Russia problem

10 million people saw political ads sponsored by Russia, designed to divide Americans

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 3, 2017 11:25AM (EDT)

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

Facebook announced on Monday that approximately 10 million of its users saw political ads designed to divide America along cultural rifts — and those ads were sponsored by Russia.

The ads in questions were the ones that had been sponsored by Russia and focused on "divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum, touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights," Facebook said in a public statement Monday.

"The 2016 U.S. election was the first where evidence has been widely reported that foreign actors sought to exploit the internet to influence voter behavior," Facebook said. "We understand more about how our service was abused and we will continue to investigate to learn all we can."

Roughly a quarter of the ads were never seen by anyone, and only 44 percent of the ads were displayed before the Election Day, Facebook added.

"We’re stepping up tomorrow to help Congress understand foreign interference on the ad platform and to make improvements to the ad platform to enhance transparency," Joel Kaplan, Facebook's vice president for U.S. public policy, told The Washington Post. "We’re committed to doing our part to prevent this type of malicious interference."

Facebook said it is taking a number of steps to thwart Russian meddling on its social media platform in the future. They're increasing documentation requirements to weed out phony political organizations, hiring 1,000 new ad reviewers and requiring any group that runs political ads to publicly post copies of them, the social network said.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Alt Right Donald Trump Facebook Mark Zuckerberg Racism Russia