Facebook Sold More Than $100,000 in Political Ads

political ads

Facebook is out with some juicy new details. Given the public’s intense interest in all things, Russian is the fact that potential pro-Kremlin entities apparently purchased as much as $150,000 in political ads on the platform between 2015 and 2017. Moreover, Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos explains in a blog 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.”

Additional $50,000 in political ads

And that is not all. In addition to that $100,000 in political ads, another $50,000 in political ad spending is thought to have loose connections to Russia. It suggests Russian origins, including “ads bought from accounts with US IP addresses but with the language set to Russian.”

Stamos also adds that the “vast majority” of the ads in question did not explicitly mention candidate names or the presidential race itself. Moreover, they focused on a spectrum of wedge issues. Those were mainly hot leading into the election, including gun rights, immigration, LGBT rights, and race.

Approximately, particular geographic regions were the one-quarter of these ads, mainly the ads that ran in 2015. Facebook’s more recent findings network with the insights around political misinformation. Conceivably, the revelation that bots aren’t actually responsible for most of this stuff is the most interesting.

Given the deep knowledge of state-level American politics, the whole thing raises further questions about the possibility that units linked to the Russian government might have coordinated with individuals in the U.S. However, it doesn’t begin to answer those questions.

Facebook trying to stay ahead

Moving on, Facebook spoke to Congress. The talk was about the findings as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. In a story by The Washington Post, Facebook claimed that “there is evidence that some of the accounts link to a troll farm in St. Petersburg, referred to as the Internet Research Agency.” We know the Internet Research Agency as a group pro-Kremlin online propaganda campaigns. Moreover, U.S. intelligence agencies believe a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin with connections to the Russian intelligence community funds it.

Additionally, Facebook has been acting on the results of its internal audit. It was also examining the ways its platform exploited in the 2016 U.S. election. Based on these reviews, the company was able to boot off its platform 30,000 suspect accounts. Those were engaging in “false amplification” around the time of the French election earlier this year. Furthermore, the company has also begun blocking ads from pages and accounts that continuously share fake news and misinformation. But Facebook is going to have a hell of a time trying to stay a few steps ahead. That is of course if these kinds of influence campaigns truly link to Russian intelligence efforts.

Armen Margarian

Armen Margarian is an attorney with The Margarian Law Firm.

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