Close
Date TimeSeptember 07, 2017
VoiceSAN FRANCISCO — Facebook says an internal investigation has uncovered $100,000 in advertising spending by hundreds of fake accounts and pages, likely operated out of Russia, which sought to sow political division during the U.S. presidential election.

The giant social network says the ads that ran between June 2015 and May 2017 carried "divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum," touching on topics such as LGBT, race, immigration and gun rights, though most of them did not directly mention the election. A small number of the ads named then Republican nominee Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.

The ads were traced to a Russian "troll farm," a Facebook official said on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Facebook says it has shared the findings with U.S. investigators.

The ads are part of a new kind of attack that Facebook calls "information operations," a web of nefarious and insidious activities that extends far beyond "fake news." In a white paper earlier this year, the Silicon Valley company outlined how this strategy can be used to misinform the public, including the creation of networks of fake accounts to distort public sentiment.

Facebook uncovered 470 suspicious and likely fake Facebook accounts and pages that it believes operated out of Russia. The ads targeted specific populations and geographies. The official declined to share any of the ads, citing the company's data privacy policy.

The accounts and the pages in question have been deleted. In hunting for other suspect ads, Facebook turned up $50,000 spent on 2,200 ads it says could have been politically related.

The internal investigation into politically motivated ads began this spring after discussions with U.S. officials, the Facebook official said.

Special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees are investigating whether the Kremlin meddled in the election and if that meddling had any connection to Trump’s campaign.

Mueller was named to the post after Trump fired former FBI director James Comey, who had been leading the investigation. President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have denied involvement in the U.S. election.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in January that Russia had interfered in the U.S. election to help elect Trump by spreading fake news and misinformation to sway public opinion.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said the Facebook report was "fully consistent with the unclassified assessment of the intelligence community."

"As part of the investigation undertaken into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, we are keenly interested in Russia’s use of social media platforms, both the use of bots and trolls to spread disinformation and propaganda, including through the use of paid online advertising," Schiff said in a statement.

Schiff said the Facebook report raises the question whether the targeting of voters "reflects any potential coordination with the Trump campaign or other U.S. persons." He also questioned whether other social networks ran Russian ads.

Widely criticized for helping spread bogus news during the election, Facebook has since conceded its network was exploited by governments and other interests intent on manipulating public opinion, including during the presidential elections in the U.S. and France.

Some 170 million people in North America use Facebook every day. Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. say they get their news from Facebook.

Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer, has vowed to shut down these kinds of operations. He says Facebook is devising new ways to keep fake accounts and activity off the social network. It's also exploring technological fixes that would identify bad actors as early as when the accounts are being created.

"We know we have to stay vigilant to keep ahead of people who try to misuse our platform," Stamos said.
Facebook finds Russian ads that sought to sow division during U.S. election

Related Stories
ITV Corrects Misleading Headline About Stormzys Comments On Racism In The UKITV Corrects Misleading Headline About Stormzy's Comments On Racism In The UK
Why Black Brits Are Considering Leaving UK After Election: If The Conservatives Win, Im GoneWhy Black Brits Are Considering Leaving UK After Election: 'If The Conservatives Win, I'm Gone'
Late night hosts delight in watching Lindsey Graham call Trump an enormous doucheLate night hosts delight in watching Lindsey Graham call Trump 'an enormous douche'
Giuliani makes astonishing admission he told Trump ambassador would not help him politically, but insists that was, like, general gossipGiuliani makes astonishing admission he told Trump ambassador would not help him politically, but insists 'that was, like, general gossip'
Trump Rally to Coincide With House Vote in Impeachment ClimaxTrump Rally to Coincide With House Vote in Impeachment Climax
Trump impeachment: Lindsey Graham will not pretend to be a fair jurorTrump impeachment: Lindsey Graham will 'not pretend to be a fair juror'
Trump rips his own FBI director for agreeing with IG reportTrump rips his own FBI director for agreeing with IG report
The Story Behind Why This Man Let A Complete Stranger Have His First Class SeatThe Story Behind Why This Man Let A Complete Stranger Have His First Class Seat
No, Matt Hancocks Aide Was Not Punched Outside A Leeds HospitalNo, Matt Hancock's Aide Was Not 'Punched' Outside A Leeds Hospital
Iranian Commander Qassem Suleimani Killed In US Airstrike On Baghdad AirportIranian Commander Qassem Suleimani Killed In US Airstrike On Baghdad Airport
Latest News
First Suspected Coronavirus Cases In UK As Flu Patients Undergo Urgent TestingFirst Suspected Coronavirus Cases In UK As Flu Patients Undergo Urgent Testing
Home ownership among young people rises after decade of declineHome ownership among young people rises after decade of decline
The Guardian view on the licence fee: the BBC will not be the BBC without it | EditorialThe Guardian view on the licence fee: the BBC will not be the BBC without it | Editorial
By axing Victoria Derbyshire, the BBC is losing a true champion of the powerless | Owen JonesBy axing Victoria Derbyshire, the BBC is losing a true champion of the powerless | Owen Jones
What we know, and dont, about the alleged Bezos phone hackWhat we know, and don't, about the alleged Bezos phone hack
The new evidence raises deeply troubling questions: did Arkansas kill an innocent man?'The new evidence raises deeply troubling questions': did Arkansas kill an innocent man?
Successor to slain Iran general will be murdered if he kills Americans: U.S. envoySuccessor to slain Iran general will be murdered if he kills Americans: U.S. envoy
Girls family: Impossible to lean from cruise ship windowGirl's family: 'Impossible' to lean from cruise ship window
U.S. imposes fresh Iran-related sanctions on two people, six companiesU.S. imposes fresh Iran-related sanctions on two people, six companies
His intention was to kill everyone in the home except himself: Utah boy, 16, charged with killing mother, 3 siblings'His intention was to kill everyone in the home except himself': Utah boy, 16, charged with killing mother, 3 siblings
Leaders
Donald-TrumpDonald Trump
45th President of the United States of America
Mike-PenceMike Pence
Vice President of the United States
Boris-JohnsonBoris Johnson
British Prime Minister
Angela-MerkelAngela Merkel
Chancellor of Germany
Emmanuel-MacronEmmanuel Macron
President of France
Justin-TrudeauJustin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Nancy-PelosiNancy Pelosi
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
Barack-ObamaBarack Obama
44th U.S. President
Theresa-MayTheresa May
Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom
Vladimir-PutinVladimir Putin
Russian President
Shinzo-AbeShinzō Abe
Prime Minister of Japan
Related Stories
ITV Corrects Misleading Headline About Stormzys Comments On Racism In The UKITV Corrects Misleading Headline About Stormzy's Comments On Racism In The UK
Why Black Brits Are Considering Leaving UK After Election: If The Conservatives Win, Im GoneWhy Black Brits Are Considering Leaving UK After Election: 'If The Conservatives Win, I'm Gone'
Late night hosts delight in watching Lindsey Graham call Trump an enormous doucheLate night hosts delight in watching Lindsey Graham call Trump 'an enormous douche'
Giuliani makes astonishing admission he told Trump ambassador would not help him politically, but insists that was, like, general gossipGiuliani makes astonishing admission he told Trump ambassador would not help him politically, but insists 'that was, like, general gossip'
Trump Rally to Coincide With House Vote in Impeachment ClimaxTrump Rally to Coincide With House Vote in Impeachment Climax
Trump impeachment: Lindsey Graham will not pretend to be a fair jurorTrump impeachment: Lindsey Graham will 'not pretend to be a fair juror'
Trump rips his own FBI director for agreeing with IG reportTrump rips his own FBI director for agreeing with IG report
The Story Behind Why This Man Let A Complete Stranger Have His First Class SeatThe Story Behind Why This Man Let A Complete Stranger Have His First Class Seat
No, Matt Hancocks Aide Was Not Punched Outside A Leeds HospitalNo, Matt Hancock's Aide Was Not 'Punched' Outside A Leeds Hospital
Iranian Commander Qassem Suleimani Killed In US Airstrike On Baghdad AirportIranian Commander Qassem Suleimani Killed In US Airstrike On Baghdad Airport
Latest News
First Suspected Coronavirus Cases In UK As Flu Patients Undergo Urgent TestingFirst Suspected Coronavirus Cases In UK As Flu Patients Undergo Urgent Testing
Home ownership among young people rises after decade of declineHome ownership among young people rises after decade of decline
The Guardian view on the licence fee: the BBC will not be the BBC without it | EditorialThe Guardian view on the licence fee: the BBC will not be the BBC without it | Editorial
By axing Victoria Derbyshire, the BBC is losing a true champion of the powerless | Owen JonesBy axing Victoria Derbyshire, the BBC is losing a true champion of the powerless | Owen Jones
What we know, and dont, about the alleged Bezos phone hackWhat we know, and don't, about the alleged Bezos phone hack
The new evidence raises deeply troubling questions: did Arkansas kill an innocent man?'The new evidence raises deeply troubling questions': did Arkansas kill an innocent man?
Successor to slain Iran general will be murdered if he kills Americans: U.S. envoySuccessor to slain Iran general will be murdered if he kills Americans: U.S. envoy
Girls family: Impossible to lean from cruise ship windowGirl's family: 'Impossible' to lean from cruise ship window
U.S. imposes fresh Iran-related sanctions on two people, six companiesU.S. imposes fresh Iran-related sanctions on two people, six companies
His intention was to kill everyone in the home except himself: Utah boy, 16, charged with killing mother, 3 siblings'His intention was to kill everyone in the home except himself': Utah boy, 16, charged with killing mother, 3 siblings
Leaders
Donald-TrumpDonald Trump
45th President of the United States of America
Mike-PenceMike Pence
Vice President of the United States
Boris-JohnsonBoris Johnson
British Prime Minister
Angela-MerkelAngela Merkel
Chancellor of Germany
Emmanuel-MacronEmmanuel Macron
President of France
Justin-TrudeauJustin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Nancy-PelosiNancy Pelosi
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
Barack-ObamaBarack Obama
44th U.S. President
Theresa-MayTheresa May
Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom
Vladimir-PutinVladimir Putin
Russian President
Shinzo-AbeShinzō Abe
Prime Minister of Japan
Close