Facebook officials have confirmed that there is evidence of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. Alex Stamos, Facebook’s Chief Security Officer, wrote in a post on the site that fake accounts created by a Kremlin-linked company on the social media platform spent at least $100,000 on more than 3,000 ads in 2015 and 2016 to spread “divisive social and political messages” leading up to the election.
An additional $50,000 and 2,200 ads are considered suspicious and potentially related to Russia-linked ads; Facebook has shut down hundreds of these accounts.
“Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia,” Stamos wrote. “We know we have to stay vigilant to keep ahead of people who try to misuse our platform…We will continue to invest in our people and technology to help provide a safe place for civic discourse and meaningful connections on Facebook.”
Reporting by the New York Times notes that Facebook isn’t the only social media platform affected by the interference. Thousands of fake accounts on Twitter — many automated, and known as “bots” — have also been identified, and in at least one case, were able to propel the hashtag #HillaryDown into the “trending” section, where the most-discussed topics are showcased to users.
Former FBI agent Clinton Watts told the Times that both Twitter and Facebook suffer from a “bot cancer eroding trust on their platforms,” noting that Facebook “has begun cutting out the tumors by deleting false accounts and fighting fake news,” but the same can’t be said for Twitter. “Bots have only spread since the election,” Watts reportedly said.
As of now, the Times reports, both Facebook and Twitter say they are learning from what happened in 2016 to prevent similar interference in the future.
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