Facebook had $100,000 of political ads from Russia in US presidential campaign

The company said the ads came from around 470 "inauthentic" accounts and pagesReuters/Philippe Wojazer

The social media giant Facebook has said that around $100,000 (£76,500) worth of ad buys during the recently US presidential election campaign came from "inauthentic accounts" that were linked and "likely run out of Russia".

In a post written by chief security officer, Alex Stamos, the company said that the findings came after a review in the wake of questions over targeted political advertising on social media during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

Facebook said that the ad spending was associated with around 3,000 adverts between June 2015 and May 2017 and came from around 470 "inauthentic accounts and pages in violation of our policies," Stamos said.

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"Our analysis suggests these accounts and pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia," he added, before saying that the accounts had been shut down.

According to Stamos and Facebook, the "vast majority" of the adverts did not specifically reference the election or any candidate at all but rather "the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum, touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights."

Around a quarter of the adverts were targeted by geography. Stamos said that the actions of the ads were consistent with techniques the social media site had defined as 'information operations'.

According to an earlier 'white paper' by Facebook, information operations are defined as "actions taken by organised actors (governments or non-state actors) to distort domestic or foreign political sentiment, most frequently to achieve a strategic and/or geopolitical outcome."

Stamos said the review also looked at ads that may have originated in Russia though with weaker links, this came up with around $50,000 (£38,000) from 2,200 ads. The site said they had shared their findings with US authorities.

Before President Donald Trump was inaugurated, several US intelligence agencies said that they believed Russia had attempted to influence the outcome of the election in Trump's favour and that the orders had even come from the highest levels of the Kremlin.

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