Social media giant Facebook has turned over all information about ads that were likely purchased by Russian operatives to special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a report.
Reuters learned on Wednesday that Facebook had sent the data, which included copies of the ads and the identity of the buyers, to Mueller after news that an internal Facebook investigation discovered agents of the Kremlin may have spent $100,000 on ads with “divisive messages” between June 2015 and May 2017.
A blog post on the issue, which was published on Wednesday, said the operation involved 3,000 separate ads over a two-year period and probably came out of Russia. Facebook also found 470 affiliated fake accounts and pages.
Mueller is currently investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin. The investigation has dogged and frustrated President Trump, who has called it a “witch hunt” and a “hoax.”
Roughly $50,000 of the funds — around 2,200 ads— were potentially related to impacting U.S. politics, said Facebook. The majority of the ads did not reference the U.S. presidential election, voting or a specific candidate, but they were found to focus on “divisive social and political messages” about hot-button topics, including LGBT rights, race issues, immigration and gun rights. Facebook has shared its findings with U.S. authorities.
In April, Facebook said it found evidence that some groups used its platform to sway the outcome of the recent election. The company did not identify targets or name who was behind the attack. What they were willing to say was that their findings did “not contradict” a U.S. Director of National Intelligence report in January about Russian efforts to influence the election.
Technology improvements, such as machines learning to detect fake accounts and additional tactics to stop the spread of misinformation and fake news, have been implemented by Facebook. Some solutions include decreasing the influence of “spammers” who spread false news links, lowering the number of articles with “clickbait” headlines that exaggerate information or do not present a full picture, and blocking pages from advertising if they share stories that have been flagged as being false.
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