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07 September 2017, 02:00 | Katrina Lee
Facebook says it sold political ads to fake Russia accounts
It is "likely" Russian political operatives spent $100,000 on Facebook ads with "divisive messages" between June 2015 and May 2017, the company said Wednesday.
Facebook is delving deeper into possible Russian interference in the U.S. election.
Facebook, the dominant social media network, said that numerous 3,000 ads promoted 470 "inauthentic" accounts and pages that it has now suspended.
Some of the 3,300 ads, which first appeared in the summer of 2015, named eventual nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton by name, the paper said.
Facebook found that these accounts had ties with one another and they "likely operated out of Russian Federation".
The acknowledgment by Facebook follows months of criticism that the social media company served as a platform for the spread of false information before the November election.
Most of the political ads that Facebook discovered didn't reference the US presidential election, voting or a specific candidate.
The tech firm also broadly searched for ads that might have ties to Russian Federation. The Postreports that they are suspected of being connected to The Internet Research Agency, a Russian firm known to push pro-Kremlin propaganda.
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Given the US prohibition on foreign money being spent in elections, Facebook has a legal duty to act if it is aware of similar activity in the future, Fischer said.
"[We] looked for ads that might have originated in Russian Federation, even those with very weak signals of a connection and not associated with any known organized effort". He said Facebook has shut down the accounts that remained active.
The company said it found no link to any presidential campaign. The Internet Research Agency is a group known for its pro-Kremlin online propaganda campaigns which US intelligence agencies believe is funded by a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin with connections to the Russian intelligence community.
But the findings buttress USA intelligence agency conclusions that Russian Federation was actively involved in shaping the election.
About $50,000 of the funds - about 2,200 ads- were potentially related to impacting USA politics.
Those banned from such spending include foreign citizens, foreign governments, foreign political parties, foreign corporations, foreign associations and foreign partnerships, according to the FEC.
"It is completely unacceptable that Facebook says it will not release the actual ads it showed to its users", Pierre Omidyar, the entrepreneur and eBay founder, wrote on Twitter.
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