Ten Million People Saw Russian Advertisements on Facebook

Ten million people saw the political advertisements purchased by a shadowy Russian internet agency and ran on Facebook, the tech giant revealed. Facebook turned over 3,000 ads to the congressional investigators who are examining if the Russians really had interfered in the presidential elections in the U.S.

According to the Facebook’s vice-president of policy and communications, Elliot Schrage, the ads were focused on “divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum, touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”

Nearly half of the advertisements were seen before the elections last year. About 56 percent were seen after that and about 25 percent were not seen at all by anyone. Schrage explained that on 99% of the ads was spent less than $1,000. Some of the ads were paid for in Russian currency. The vice-president of policy and communications defended the company’s use of targeted advertising but added that “certain types of targeting will now require additional human review and approval.”

Facebook, Twitter and Google, are under pressure from lawmakers and the public to disclose more details about Russia’s alleged use of the platforms to spread disinformation and propaganda before the elections. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said that is crazy, but later he apologized.

“Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it. This is too important an issue to be dismissive,” he said.

Last month, Facebook revealed a Russian-based influence operation had purchased $100,000 worth of ads. The advertisements were with a purpose to promote divisive political and social messages during the presidential campaign and they ran between June 2015 and May 2017.

This is another subject of discussion related to the alleged Russian influence on the American presidential elections. According to Schrage, the service has been abused.

“The 2016 U.S. election was the first where evidence has been widely reported that foreign actors sought to exploit the internet to influence voter behavior. We understand more about how our service was abused and we will continue to investigate to learn all we can. We know that our experience is only a small piece of a much larger puzzle. Congress and the Special Counsel are best placed to put these pieces together because they have much broader investigative power to obtain information from other sources,” Schrage wrote.

Facebook shared the 3,000 ads with the House and Senate intelligence committees and the Senate judiciary committee and turned them over to the special counsel Robert Mueller.

Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice-president of global public policy, announced that the company is planning to hire more than 1,000 people to help review advertisements and to require more documentation from advertisers who want to run ads related to the U.S. election.

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