Facebook said on Wednesday it had discovered that an impact operation most likely situated in Russia burned through $100,000 on advertisements advancing disruptive social and political messages in a two-year-time span through May.
The web-based social networking system said that a considerable lot of the advertisements advanced 470 “inauthentic” records and pages Facebook has now suspended. The promotions spread polarizing sees on subjects, for example, migration, race and gay rights, rather than support a specific political hopeful, it said.
Facebook declared the discoveries in a blog by its main security officer, Alex Stamos, and said that it was collaborating with government investigation into impact operations amid the 2016 presidential election.
The organization said it found no connection to any presidential crusade. Seventy five percent of the promotions were national in scope, and the rest did not seem to reflect focusing of political swing states as voting neared.
Facebook did not print the names of any of the suspended pages, but some of them included such words as “refugee” and “patriot”.
The findings buttress US intelligence agency conclusions that Russia was actively involved in shaping the election.
Facebook previously published a white paper detailing well-funded and subtle techniques used by countries and organizations to spread misleading information for geopolitical goals. These efforts go well beyond “fake news”, the company said, and include content seeding, targeted data collection and fake accounts used to amplify one particular view, sow distrust in political institutions and spread confusion.
The company said in April: “We have had to expand our security focus from traditional abusive behavior, such as account hacking, malware, spam and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people.”
Facebook did not attribute the manipulation to any nation state, although it said that the company’s investigation “does not contradict” the findings of a January report by the US director of national intelligence that outlined Russian involvement in the election.
Even so, as recently as June, it told journalists that it had not found any evidence to date of Russian operatives buying election-related ads on its platform.
A Facebook employee said on Wednesday there were unspecified connections between the divisive ads and a well-known Russian “troll factory” in St Petersburg that publishes comments on social media.
Beyond the issue ads, Facebook said it uncovered $50,000 more in overtly political advertising that might have links to Russia. Some of those ads were bought using the Russian language, even though they were displayed to users in English.
Even if no laws were violated, the pages ran afoul of Facebook requirements for authenticity, setting up the suspensions.
“In the past Facebook has taken the stance that it’s a tech company and not a media company, but they have clearly moved into the media company category,” said advertising veteran Mike Kelly, CEO of Kelly Newman Ventures and former president of AOL Media.
“They have to up their game a bit.”