Facebook: 10 million people saw ads linked to Russia

Facebook said Monday an estimated 10 million people in the United States saw ads that have been linked to Russia before and after the presidential election.

The tech firm turned over more than 3,000 ads with ties to a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency to congressional investigators looking into whether the country meddled in the U.S. presidential election.

Russian government officials have denied using social media to interfere in the election.

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But Facebook says the ads, which ran between 2015 and 2017, focused on divisive political topics such as gun rights, racial issues and immigration.

Citing privacy concerns, the tech firm hasn’t released the ads to the public. But The Washington Post, citing people familiar with the investigation, reported that one of the ads showed “photographs of an armed black woman “dry firing” a rifle — pulling the trigger of the weapon without a bullet in the chamber.”

The exact purpose of the ad remains unclear to investigators, but they think that it may have been “designed to encourage African American militancy and, at the same time, to stoke fears within white communities,” the media outlet reported.

Facebook said that about 44 percent of the ads were seen before the U.S. presidential election.

“The 2016 US election was the first where evidence has been widely reported that foreign actors sought to exploit the internet to influence voter behavior,” wrote Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s Vice President of Policy and Communications in a blog post. “We understand more about how our service was abused and we will continue to investigate to learn all we can.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also expressed regret for dismissing the idea that misinformation on the social network influenced the election as “crazy.”

Over the weekend, the tech mogul asked for forgiveness for the ways Facebook was used to divide people.

On Monday, Facebook also shared more details about what it’s doing to protect election integrity.

Over the next year, for example, the company is hiring more than 1,000 workers to review ads and investing more in machine learning. About 8 million people report ads to Facebook daily, the company said.

Photo Credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

 

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