Russian accounts bought Facebook ads during USA election

Facebook says shadowy Russian group spent $100000 on 'divisive' adverts during US election

Facebook on Wednesday said that it found evidence of ad spending related to fake accounts "likely operated out of Russia" during the U.S. presidential election.

Facebook told the congressional investigators that numerous ads promoted 470 fake accounts and pages spreading polarizing views on topics such as immigration, gun rights, race, and gay rights.

The accounts in question have now been shut down, Facebook's chief security officer Alex Stamos added.

The internal Facebook findings - which it said in a blog post it had already turned over to US authorities - comes as the Silicon Valley giant faces intense scrutiny from special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees concerned about how both real internet trolls and fake news bots preyed on USA voters during last year's election. Mr Zuckerberg dismissed the notion that "fake news" on Facebook swayed the election as "crazy".

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Stamos said a "majority" of the ads didn't specifically reference the presidential election or a particular candidate but did try to amplify divisive issues. Some of those ads were bought using computers with US internet protocol addresses but set to the Russian language, though they were displayed to users in English.

A Facebook official said "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".

Facebook said it was cooperating with inquiries by Congress into whether Russian Federation sought to influence the election. 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.

New policies include limits on news feeds that share stories with consistent clickbait headlines and blocks on pages that repeatedly share fake news stories to advertise.

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The social network said it also uncovered $50,000 more in ads clearly of a political nature that might have links to Russian Federation.

"It is unlawful for foreign nationals to be spending money in connection with any federal, state or local election, directly or indirectly", Weintraub said in a phone interview.

Those banned from such spending include foreign citizens, foreign governments, foreign political parties, foreign corporations, foreign associations and foreign partnerships, according to the FEC.

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