Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said today that the company will share ads with Congress that the social media giant discovered in an internal probe this month – ads that were likely operated out of Russia and could have been used as part of a wider Russian plot to disrupt the 2016 election.
The internal probe, according to Facebook VP Policy and Communications Elliot Schrage in a blog post today, found approximately 470 accounts and Pages “identified by our dedicated security team that manually investigates specific, organized threats” were affiliated with one another — and were likely operated out of Russia and linked to accounts associated with a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency. They have since been shuttered, and that data is now headed to Congress investigating Russian interference in the election.
“Facebook’s mission is all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together,” Zuckerberg said today (watch the full video above). “Those are democratic values, and we’re proud of them. I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy.”
Facebook, which surpassed 2 billion average monthly during second-quarter 2017, reviewed ad buys and concluded that from June 2015-May 2017 there was approximately $100,000 in ad spending associated with about 3,000 ads connected to those 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages.
“This is an extraordinary investigation — one that raises questions that go to the integrity of the U.S. elections,” Schrage wrote. “After an extensive legal and policy review, we’ve concluded that sharing the ads we’ve discovered with Congress, in a manner that is consistent with our obligations to protect user information, will help government authorities complete the vitally important work of assessing what happened in the 2016 election.”
The company said it will not make the ads in question public, citing federal law that “places strict limitations on the disclosure of account information,” Schrage wrote.
Zuckerberg also said Facebook’s own investigation is ongoing, that it will increase security focused on election integrity, and a new policy is being implemented for political ads to create “an even higher standard for transparency” in which users can see what Page paid for an ad and have the ability to click on the advertiser’s website to see what ads are being serviced elsewhere on Facebook.
In April, Facebook unveiled changes to the systems that help it better detect fake accounts.