Money Trail: Facebook helped Putin get Trump elected
Facebook says it sold political ads to Russian company during 2016 election
Representatives of Facebook told congressional investigators Wednesday that it has discovered it sold ads during the U.S. presidential election to a shadowy Russian company seeking to target voters, according to several people familiar with the company’s findings.
Facebook officials reported that they traced the ad sales, totaling $100,000, to a Russian “troll farm” with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda, these people said.
A small portion of the ads, which began in the summer of 2015, directly named Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the people said. Most of the ads focused on pumping politically divisive issues such as gun rights and immigration fears, as well as gay rights and racial discrimination.
“I get the fact that the Russian intel services could figure out how to manipulate and use the bots. Whether they could know how to target states and levels of voters that the Democrats weren’t even aware really raises some questions. I think that’s a worthwhile area of inquiry,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said during a May airing of the podcast Pod Save America. “How did they know to go to that level of detail in those kinds of jurisdictions?”
An official familiar with Facebook’s internal investigation said the company does not have the ability to determine whether the ads it sold represented any sort of coordination.
Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads
Hundreds of fake Facebook accounts and pages apparently operated out of Russia bought $100,000 in political ads on Facebook during the presidential campaign last year, the company disclosed on Wednesday.
… Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and the Senate and House intelligence committees are all investigating the matter, including the possibility that someone with ties to President Trump’s campaign worked with Russia.
Facebook officials said the fake accounts and pages had been connected to a shadowy Russian company called the Internet Research Agency, which is known for using “troll” accounts to post on social media and comment on news websites.
Most of the 3,000 ads did not refer to particular candidates but instead focused on divisive social issues such as race, gay rights, gun control and immigration, according to a Facebook post by Alex Stamos, the company’s chief security officer. The ads violated Facebook’s policies, and the company said it had shut down the 470 pages and accounts associated with them.
… Facebook, which offers a sophisticated level of targeting to advertisers, has been in the center of a storm over the role that it played in propagating fake news and other misleading information during the campaign.
Here are the opening grafs of Stamos’s Facebook post:
There have been a lot of questions since the 2016 US election about Russian interference in the electoral process. In April we published a white paper that outlined our understanding of organized attempts to misuse our platform. One question that has emerged is whether there’s a connection between the Russian efforts and ads purchased on Facebook. These are serious claims and we’ve been reviewing a range of activity on our platform to help understand what happened.
In reviewing the ads buys, we have found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017 — associated with roughly 3,000 ads — that was connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.
Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg. For nothing.