Facebook has estimated that it exposed around 10m people in the US to Russian propaganda after calculating for the first time how many members were exposed to 3,000 Russian-linked ads.
Internal modelling suggests that while 25% of the adverts were viewed by no-one, 44% of the remainder were seen prior to the presidential election in November 2016, with 56% viewed in its aftermath.
Anger has been building in America over how Moscow was given free rein to stir divisions in American society through the use of fake ad buying accounts by Facebook at such a critical juncture, sparking calls for increased government regulation of its activities.
The total ad spend attributed to the Russian campaign has been put at $100k, with less than $1,000 spent on 99% of the flagged adverts – although the social network hasn’t discounted uncovering more Russian-linked material as it investigates further.
Despite concerns Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of policy and communications, insisted that many of the adverts discovered ‘did not violate our content policies’, suggesting that they would have been run in any event.
Schrage wrote: “While we may not always agree with the positions of those who would speak on issues here, we believe in their right to do so - just as we believe in the right of Americans to express opinions on issues in other countries.”
In a bid to restore trust Mark Zuckerberg has embarked on a hiring spree with the recruitment of 1,000 workers to help speed up policing, together with a tightening of its policies to outlaw ‘even more subtle expressions of violence’. The business will also demand more documentation from people wishing to run campaigns coinciding with US federal elections.