Late on Wednesday, Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos published a blog post to update the community on information operations on the platform. In it, he described the company’s discovery of a Russian group scheme that spent $100,000 iPresn political ads throughout the U.S. Presidential Election period.
The targeted campaigns were mostly focused on stretching the ideological divide on hot issues ranging from gun rights, race, and homosexuality to immigration. A few of them mentioned directly either the then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton or the now President Donald J. Trump.
Facebook officials have since taken action to shut down all the accounts associated with the scheme, and are collaborating with federal authorities to provide data and resources to ongoing investigations. The company, however, claimed it had no way of relating the ad campaigns to any party or political entity.
Facebook evidence adds more fuel to the Trump-Russia fire
The Trump campaign team and administration have been under the scrutiny of the public eye and federal authorities since not shortly after winning the presidency. In fact, preliminary reports released as early as January concluded that Russia had definitely meddled with the election in one way or another.
Facebook started investigating on its own this spring after questions originated from an information operations report published in April about efforts to regulate inappropriate content and misuse of the social network.
This independent research uncovered a scheme spanning hundreds of accounts, thousands of ads, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses from groups and “troll farms” associated with pro-Kremlin schemes carried out in the past, as noted by sources speaking to the Washington Post.
Robert Mueller is currently leading a special counsel probing the instances of potential Russian interference in last year’s elections. Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.) of the House Intelligence Committee deemed the data provided by Facebook as “very significant” to the investigations and said they constituted a “profound warning.”
Rep. Adam Schiff: Russian Facebook ad buy confirms Russia organized a social media disinformation campaign https://t.co/XUXNehul3M pic.twitter.com/gpDP51Z1L0
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 7, 2017
Facebook is doing more to keep platform misuse at bay
Mark Zuckerberg’s company reaffirmed through its CSO its commitment to enforce tighter security controls on the platform for both content and users. He said that Facebook vowed to invest in the people and resources necessary to continue strengthening these efforts.
Among the measures upheld by the social network turned tech giant, there is the use of machine learning to instantly identify spam and poor quality content, banning Pages that incur in fake news spreading repeatedly, lowering the priority of spam and click bait headlines, and uncovering deceptive ads.