Social media giant Facebook on Wednesday admitted that it found evidence of ad spending related to fake accounts “likely operated out of Russia” during the US presidential election.
According to the company, the fake accounts purchased thousands of ads during the US presidential election designed to amplify divisive political messages.
Facebook said the ads were part of elaborate “information operations” in which “organized actors,” including governments, used social media to deceive the public and distort political sentiment.
Alex Stamos, Facebook chief security officer, posted a blog on the social network acknowledging that it had 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.”
Stamos further disclosed that analysis suggested that the 470 accounts and pages were “affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.”
He said that the analysis was done in response to mounting concern over “Russian interference in the electoral process” and Facebook’s role in spreading misinformation leading up to the election. He added that it has since shut down those accounts and pages that were still active.
Stamos confirmed in his blog post that Facebook had shared its findings with U.S. authorities and “will continue to work with them as necessary.”
“Our analysis suggests these accounts and pages were affiliated with one another and probably operated out of Russia,” Stamos added. Most of the ads were aimed at “‘amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum.”
It was also gathered that Facebook officials have informed U.S. congressional authorities that the fake accounts posting the ads were created by a Russian company called the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked propaganda group that is infamous for trolling across social and other media sites.
The revelation follows months of reports linking Russia to efforts designed to sway November’s US presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The announcement of admittance made on Wednesday by the social media giant also marks the first official confirmation by the company that its 2-billion-member platform was likely exploited during the election.