- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Fake Facebook accounts with apparent ties to Russia made approximately $100,000 in ad buys to promote divisive or political messages in the months leading up to and following the 2016 presidential election, the social networking company said Wednesday.

Facebook announced the findings following an internal review conducted in the wake of the 2016 presidential election after concerns emerged about the scope of Russian interference in the democratic process.

Approximately 3,000 ads were purchased between June 2015 and May 2017 that were connected to 470 fake Facebook accounts or pages, the company said. Internal analysis suggested that the accounts were affiliated with one another “and likely operated out of Russia,” wrote the company’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, in a blog post on the company’s website.

Mr. Stamos said Facebook has shared its the findings with U.S. authorities.

“The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the US presidential election, voting or a particular candidate,” Mr. Stamos wrote. “Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”

Those fake accounts and pages were shut down.

The Facebook review also uncovered approximately $50,000 spent on roughly 2,200 ads that are believed to have originated in Russia, though they may not be related to any organized influence effort.

As concern about the spread of fake news on social networking sites has proliferated, Mr. Stamos said Facebook taking numerous additional steps to improve the company’s efforts to find and shut down fake accounts.

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