Facebook sold over $100K in political ads to fake Russian accounts during 2016 US elections

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A huge network of some 470 fake Russian Facebook accounts and Pages spent over $100,000 on Facebook ads meant to “amplify divisive social and political messages” in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, the social network said on Wednesday.


Interestingly, most of the ads in question did not explicitly mention candidate names or the presidential race itself. Instead, they focused on issues that were raging hot leading into the election, including gun rights, immigration, LGBT rights and race.

“One question that has emerged is whether there’s a connection between the Russian efforts and ads purchased on Facebook,” Alex Stamos, the company’s chief security officer, said in a statement. “These are serious claims and we’ve been reviewing a range of activity on our platform to help understand what happened.”

According to Facebook, “about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies” bought roughly 3,000 Facebook ads between June 2015 and May 2017. The accounts and Pages were “likely operated out of Russia,” the blog added.

The latest revelations add fuel to the widespread belief that Russian authorities tried to interfere in the elections under the orders of President Vladimir Putin himself and Facebook was used as a pawn in this process. To fix this, Facebook has taken steps since the election to try and squash so-called fake news from gaining traction on the platform, including efforts to punish publishers that pay to promote false information.

The social network adds that all of the accounts and Pages responsible for this $100,000 worth of ad spend have been shut down.

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