Facebook sold ads to Russian-linked accounts during election

Image stephen lam  Getty Images

The social media giant Facebook has said that around $100,000 (£76,500) worth of ad buys during the recently U.S. presidential election campaign came from "inauthentic accounts" that were linked and "likely run out of Russia". Three-fourths of the divisive issue ads were national in scope, and the rest did not appear to reflect targeting of political swing-states as voting neared.

Most of the ads were run in 2015 and a quarter of them were targeted at a specific region, he added. The company also removed 30,000 fake accounts before the French elections in April and tens of thousands of accounts before the United Kingdom's snap election in June.

The social media platform's investigation discovered $50,000 - roughly 2,200 ads-worth - was spent on adverts that were potentially "politically related".

They looked to increase "disruptive social and political messages over the ideological range" on themes that included firearms, movement and gay rights, Mr Stamos composed.

Stamos explained that Facebook cast a wide net looking for accounts "with very weak signals of a connection and not associated with any known organized effort".

Facebook has shared its findings with US authorities. While the amount of spending on the ads was nominal at best, the fact that it even occurred is likely to reinforce concerns expressed by some Democrats that Russian Federation may have used Facebook to promote narratives that flattered Trump and bashed Clinton in key Rust Belt swing states that helped the real estate mogul take the White House. The newspaper didn't name the Russian company. In a follow-up story by the Washington Post, Facebook admitted that "there is evidence that some of the accounts are linked to a troll farm in St. Petersburg, referred to as the Internet Research Agency, though we have no way to independently confirm".

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Given the US prohibition on foreign money being spent in elections, Facebook has a legal duty to act if it is aware of similar activity in the future, Fischer said.

"Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia", Stamos said.

Facebook has been stepping up its fight against fake news and misinformation following the USA election, but the tech firm acknowledges there's more to do.

But the findings buttress USA intelligence agency conclusions that Russian Federation was actively involved in shaping the election.

The site, and its founder Mark Zuckerberg, came under extremely heavy criticism for not taking the issue seriously in the days following President Donald Trump's election win.

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