A new analysis by Facebook into whether Russia tried to interfere with last fall’s U.S. presidential election by purchasing ads on the social media network has found a connection between the country and fake accounts.
In a blog post on Wednesday, Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos said that the company was reviewing a range of activity on its platform to investigate the serious claims that Russian interference could be tied to Facebook.
Stamos said a review of ad buys “found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017 — associated with roughly 3,000 ads — that was connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.”
Facebook, which does not allow fake accounts, says it has shut down any that were still active.
Stamos spelled out just what was in the ads, saying that the majority didn’t specifically reference the presidential election, voting, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. But the ads “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum,” Stamos wrote, saying that the ads keyed on topics such as LGBT matters, race issues and immigration or gun rights.
The findings regarding divisive techniques back up what Facebook previously revealed in a white paper it issued in April.
“We know we have to stay vigilant to keep ahead of people who try to misuse our platform,” Stamos wrote. “We believe in protecting the integrity of civic discourse, and require advertisers on our platform to follow both our policies and all applicable laws. We also care deeply about the authenticity of the connections people make on our platform.”
The blog post laid out steps Facebook is taking to guarantee that activity on the site is authentic such as applying machine learning to help limit spam and blocking Pages from advertising if they repeatedly share stories marked as false.
The company said its findings regarding Russia have been shared with U.S. authorities investigating the issues, and it says it will continue to work with investigators as necessary.