Facebook says fake accounts linked to Russia bought ads during US election

Mark ZuckerbergDrew Angerer/Getty ImagesFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

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

Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, said the company conducted an examination of ads purchased over the past two years in response to mounting concern over “Russian interference in the electoral process” and Facebook’s role in spreading misinformation leading up to the election.

The social network discovered roughly $US100,000 in ad buys between June 2015 and May 2017 “associated with roughly 3,000 ads” and connected to nearly 500 affiliated fake accounts.

“Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia,” Stamos wrote in a post published on Facebook’s company blog.

The “vast majority” of ads related to the fake Russian accounts didn’t target a political candidate and instead focused on “amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum,” according to Stamos.

The revelation marks the first official confirmation that Russia likely used Facebook in its efforts to sway US election results. Facebook said in July that it had found “no evidence that Russian actors bought ads on Facebook in connection with the election.”

In a research published earlier this year, Facebook detailed its attempts to thwart organised “information operations” that are increasingly used to sway political leanings through the spread of fake news and propaganda on its platform.

Facebook was widely criticised in the wake of the election for its role in the proliferation of so-called fake news, which many believed help Donald Trump win the election. CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially called that notion “pretty crazy,” but Facebook has since made significant strides to eradicate fake news stories from its platform.

Stamos said on Wednesday that Facebook has shared its latest findings with US authorities investigating Russia’s interference in the election.

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