Facebook says an operation likely based in Russia spent $100,000 to buy advertisements promoting political and social issues in the United States.
The company said about 3,000 ads were bought by people operating nearly 500 fake Facebook accounts. The ads ran between June 2015 and May 2017, within the period of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
In a blog post, Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said most of the ads did not specifically name the U.S. election or any candidates. Rather, they appeared aimed at “amplifying divisive social and political messages” on a range of major issues. These included LGBT rights, race relations and gun control.
A Facebook investigation found the fake accounts were related to each other and “likely operated out of Russia.” The company said it does not allow “inauthentic” accounts and all were removed.
Facebook also said it had identified another 2,200 ads bought for about $50,000 that “might have originated in Russia.” These included ads bought by accounts with IP addresses in the U.S. that were set to the Russian language.
Facebook said the behavior shown in the ad buys is similar to methods used by what it calls “false amplifiers” who operated during the 2016 campaign. Methods included the posting of fake stories on social media to misinform and confuse the public.
Earlier this year, Facebook announced several new policies intended to prevent users from spreading misinformation and fake news.
The company said it is continuing to investigate possible ways Russian sources may have used its service as a way to influence the 2016 election. It added that it is cooperating with a federal investigation into the issue led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller’s investigation is also looking into any possible contacts between then-candidate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign team and Russian officials.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this for VOA Learning English, based on reports from Facebook, VOANews.com, Reuters and the Associated Press. Hai Do was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
promote – v. make people aware of something
fake – adj. false, not true
amplify – v. increase in strength
divisive – adj. causing disagreements between people
LGBT – acronym lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender
inauthentic – adj. not real
originate – v. cause something to exist
confuse – v. make something difficult to understand