Facebook has confirmed that after a review to see if there was any connection between Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election and ads purchased on the platform, roughly $100,000 of ad spending was connected to hundreds of troll accounts and pages operated out of Russia.
Facebook officials told a congressional panel that the social network discovered it had sold advertisements to a Russia-based operation during the presidential election targeting USA voters.
Most of the 3,000 ads did not refer to particular candidates but instead focused on divisive social issues such as race, gay rights, gun control and immigration, according to a Facebook post by Alex Stamos, the company's chief security officer.
The company said its findings regarding Russian Federation have been shared with USA authorities investigating the issues, and it says it will continue to work with investigators as necessary. Mr Zuckerberg dismissed the notion that "fake news" on Facebook swayed the election as "crazy".
The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn't specifically reference the USA presidential election, voting or a particular candidate. Some of those ads were bought using computers with USA internet protocol addresses but set to the Russian language, though they were displayed to users in English. The Washington Post reported that Facebook traced the fake accounts to a Russian "troll farm" that has a history of promoting Russian propaganda.
Given the US prohibition on foreign money being spent in elections, Facebook has a legal duty to act if it is aware of similar activity in the future, Fischer said. While the amount of spending on the ads was nominal at best, the fact that it even occurred is likely to reinforce concerns expressed by some Democrats that Russian Federation may have used Facebook to promote narratives that flattered Trump and bashed Clinton in key Rust Belt swing states that helped the real estate mogul take the White House.
The company said it found no link to any presidential campaign. It also hunted for other suspect ads and found $50,000 spent on 2,200 ads it says could have been politically related.
But the findings buttress US intelligence agency conclusions that Russian Federation was actively involved in shaping the election.
Under federal law and Federal Election Commission regulations, both foreign nationals and foreign governments are prohibited from making contributions or spending money to influence a federal, state or local election in the United States.
Facebook said it was trying.
New policies include limits on news feeds that share stories with consistent clickbait headlines and blocks on pages that repeatedly share fake news stories to advertise.