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Facebook says ‘inauthentic’ Russian accounts spent $100K on ads in US Presidential race

By Sean Larkin, Programmatic Reporter

September 6, 2017 | 3 min read

Facebook’s role in the latest race for the White House, and more specifically fake information spread via the social network, has been a hot topic of debate. And that debate has only heated up after it was revealed that up to $100,000 of its ad spend was generated by suspicious accounts during the period.


Facebook has shared the findings of its investigation with US authorities

A blog post today (September 6) from Alex Stamos, Facebook's chief security officer, details an analysis from the social network that conceded that up to 470 associated accounts, likely operating out of Russia, attempted to misuse its platform between June 2015 and May 2017.

These accounts generated 3,000 ad buys, equating to approximately $100,000 in ad spend during the period, with Facebook claiming it has since closed down said accounts. The company noted that the vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the US presidential election.

An additional $50,000 of political ad spending to Russia-connected accounts was also unearthed in the review.

However, the analysis did find that the accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages on issues such as gun ownership, immigration and LGBT and race issues, according to the report.

Facebook has shared these findings with US authorities investigating potential Russian interference with the country’s most recent general election, with the social network claiming it has since invested in technology to detect fake accounts and prevent the spread of misinformation.

“Along with these actions, we are exploring several new improvements to our systems for keeping inauthentic accounts and activity off our platform,” read Stamos’ post.

“For example, we are looking at how we can apply the techniques we developed for detecting fake accounts to better detect inauthentic Pages and the ads they may run.”

This includes using machine learning technology to limit spamming and domain-spoofing, as well as to reduce the number of posts from ‘clickbait sources’ and block off advertising from pages that repeatedly share stories marked as false.

“We will continue to invest in our people and technology to help provide a safe place for civic discourse and meaningful connections on Facebook,” added Stamos in his post.

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