Representatives from Facebook today informed congress that it inadvertently sold advertising space to Russian operatives seeking to influence the 2016 US presidential election. The social network, after investigation, was able to trace $100,000 to a “troll farm” in Russia.
Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos released an official statement detailing the investigation process:
In reviewing the ads buys, we have 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. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.
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While some of the advertisements specifically named Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the statement says the majority of ads focused on controversial voter issues such as gun control, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. According to Stamos the purpose of the accounts in purchasing the ads was to amplify divisive messages.
Congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller are currently probing Russian interference into the election and Facebook representatives are cooperating with attempts to uncover the depths of Kremlin involvement. According to Stamos:
We have shared our findings with US authorities investigating these issues, and we will continue to work with them as necessary.
Update 3:38 CDT: Added quotes and information from official Facebook statement.