Electronics

Facebook: Accounts from Russian Federation bought ads during USA campaign

Facebook: Accounts from Russian Federation bought ads during USA campaign

"It raises very interesting questions about Facebook accepting that money to influence the US election without noticing that it was from a foreign source", she said, adding the Russian purchasers and Americans who knew about the ad buys were now exposed to criminal proceedings.

The social network has identified 470 "inauthentic" accounts and $100,000 of Ad spend "likely operated out of Russian Federation". USA intelligence agencies said in a report earlier this year that they had concluded Russian Federation sought to intervene in the presidential campaign to help elect Donald Trump but it wasn't clear whether the Trump campaign cooperated in the effort.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in January that Russian Federation had interfered in the U.S. election to help elect Trump, including by using paid social media trolls to spread fake news meant to influence public opinion.

While the ad spending figure is small, Facebook's findings raise questions about the extent of Russian involvement in the US election and how misinformation on social media may have affected voters. One-quarter of the 3,000 ads targeted specific geographical locations "to amplify divisive messages".

Facebook said it has also done a broad search for ads that might have originated in Russia, for example, ads purchased from accounts with U.S. IP addresses but with the language set to Russian.

"We are continuing to cooperate with appropriate authorities and have shared the results of our internal inquiries to this point", the company said Thursday in a statement.

Google has said it has failed to unearth any facts that would implicate Moscow in exploiting its advertising tools to manipulate the U.S. elections. We have to get to the bottom of that.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee's Russian Federation investigation, said Wednesday he wants Facebook executives to appear before the committee in public.

Facebook officials showed Hill investigators Wednesday copies of the ads - but they refused to give them copies or any other documents, leaving some investigators feeling burned Wednesday.

Facebook and other social media companies have come under intense pressure since the election to curb the flow of false information.

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At the same time, $100,000 worth of ads is a drop in the bucket compared with the billions of dollars in business that Facebook does every year.

The nonprofit group Common Cause, a frequent FEC critic that supports strong campaign finance rules, announced September 7 that it is filing enforcement complaints with the FEC and the Justice Department following the reports about the Russia-linked Facebook political ads.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Thursday that he has believed since the beginning of his panel's investigation that Russians were using "the very social media sites that we rely on for virtually everything - the Facebooks, Googles and Twitters ... to intervene in our elections". The official declined to release any of the ads it traced to Russian companies or entities.

Editor's Remarks: Facebook has been criticised for not cracking down on the dissemination of misinformation on its site and has now started to release data that they say, "amplified divisive and political messages across the ideological spectrum" during the United States election campaign.

Warner said lawmakers could potentially pursue reforms requiring ads on social media to tell users who is behind the content, similar to existing laws governing other political advertisements. Those users were then targeted with election-oriented ads in 2016, he said. "And of course, we will continue to review what Russians could have done to manipulate the platform", a Facebook official said. "Facebook's being fearless. They probably could have buried this, and they did the right thing by coming forward".

Last year, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote a post saying "more than 99%" of what people see on the social network is authentic and that the company was already working toward preventing the spread of fake news and hoaxes. He said Facebook has shut down the accounts that remained active. Over the past few months, Stamos said, the company has also taken action to block fake accounts tied to election meddling in France and Germany.

The Internet Research Agency has received attention in the past for its activity. For example, Facebook is testing ways to use its technology for detecting fake accounts to better detect inauthentic Pages and the ads they could run. They said Internet Research Agency employees, for instance, spread derogatory information about Putin critic Boris Nemtsov in the days after his 2015 murder.

The social media giant is under new scrutiny after an about-face. She indicated the FEC would address the matter and other questions about alleged foreign spending to influence USA elections through the agency's normal enforcement process, which occurs behind closed doors and can take months or years to complete. He also wants to know if the content of the ads smacked of Russian propaganda. A Facebook spokesman told the magazine that the company had no evidence of such buys.

US election law bars foreign nationals and foreign entities from spending money to advocate the election or defeat of a candidate, although non-citizens may advertise on issues.

Those banned from such spending include foreign citizens, foreign governments, foreign political parties, foreign corporations, foreign associations and foreign partnerships, according to the FEC. (Permanent residents who hold green cards, however, are not considered foreign nationals.) Violators face civil penalties, as well as criminal prosecution, if they are found to have knowingly broken the law.


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