After an internal review, Facebook on Wednesday disclosed to Senate Intelligence Committee investigators that it unwittingly sold about $100,000 in political advertisements to fake accounts believed to be operating out of Russia.
The detail has opened up new speculation about the extent to which social media companies were unknowingly part of Russia’s efforts.
The roughly 3,000 ads were purchased between June 2015 and May 2017, the company later confirmed in a blog post, and mostly focused on “amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum” rather than specifically referencing the presidential election.
“This seems to fit with the broader narrative of interests of certain actors [in Russia] or the Russian government as a whole in playing a role in U.S. politics,” said Chris Miller, research director at the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Eurasia Program. “This kind of fits a broader pattern.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the committee, has requested similar information about ads from Twitter, anticipating that Facebook’s disclosure could be just “the tip of the iceberg.” The Democrat has also suggested that Congress could pass legislation that would institute disclosure requirements for social media advertisements.
“I think the public needs to know what kind of misinformation and disinformation might be appearing on their Facebook news feed or their Twitter news feed,” Warner told CNN on Wednesday.
Warner confirmed that Facebook said that it traced the activity to an Internet “troll farm” operating out of St. Petersburg.
Facebook, which has since deactivated the 470 accounts in question, has already reportedly shared the findings of its internal investigation with Mueller.
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