Facebook turning over thousands of Russia-linked ads to Congress

Katrina Barker
October 3, 2017

But in an indication of the power of social media, and the challenge in controlling it, Facebook described how the 3,000 ads it had previously identified as being linked to Russian Federation were seen by 10 million of its users - a number roughly the size of Michigan's population.

Russian influence during the 2016 election could be a turning point for the U.S. congress. Democrats wrote to the Federal Election Committee last month with a plea to regulate online political advertising through social media, eyeing potential for misinformation in the 2018 midterm elections. The company said it found 450 accounts and about $100,000 was spent on the ads.

"The 2016 United States election was the first where evidence has been widely reported that foreign actors sought to exploit the internet to influence voter behavior", wrote Elliot Schrage, Facebook's Vice President of Policy and Communications in a blog post. Earlier, there were reports in American news outlets on how advertisers could target their Facebook marketing at an audience filtered by anti-Semitic terms. Last month, the company disclosed that Russian-backed entities spent $150,000 on the platform during the USA presidential election, two months after saying it found no evidence of such activity. "But we know ad targeting can be abused, and we aim to prevent abusive ads from running on our platform", Schrage wrote on Monday.

A more astute observer of American politics than Mr. Zuckerberg might consider that Mr. Trump's comments are part of an effort to depict Facebook as anti-conservative, lest outrage about the company's role in the 2016 election prompt the site to adopt policies that would make a repeat of 2016 more hard.

Senate intelligence chairman Richard Burr said Monday he won't be the one who makes the Russian-linked Facebook election ads public.

In the past month congressional officials have scrutinized Twitter and Facebook for evidence of Russians using their platforms to influence the outcome of the election. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, as well the Silicon Valley contingent in the House - to investigate these behemoth tech companies and support new regulations to rein them in.

Virginia's Sen. Mark Warner and Minnesota's Sen.

"We care deeply about the integrity of elections around the world".

Schiff said he hopes to release a sampling of the ads at a public hearing with the firms. If the company was truly focused on the "content, message and quality of ads", he said, "there would be a very different platform for how you buy and place ads on Facebook".

The adverts were sold to fake accounts which were likely operated from Russian Federation. The company defended itself from accusations that it should not have permitted the divisive ads, saying it walks a fine political line.

"As a general rule, we are limited in what we can discuss publicly about law enforcement investigations, so we may not always be able to share our findings publicly", Zuckerberg said.

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