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In a statement to congressional investigators on Wednesday, Facebook representatives announced that the social network sold ads to a Russian company during the 2016 US presidential election.
The ads were specifically targeted at voters and have been traced back to a Russian "troll farm" supposedly known as the Internet Research Agency. The ad company is also known to have a history of putting out pro-Kremlin propaganda. Although the total ad spending in this case only amounted to $100,000, the fact that Russia was even able to inject ads into the election at all is worrisome to many.
Facebook has stated that in compliance with their privacy and data policies, they won't be releasing the 3,300 specific ads in question. They did say, however, that the ads were targeted at users with a history of interest in politically charged issues such as gun rights, immigration and discrimination.
Facebook has been facing growing scrutiny for allowing the spread of fake news before and during the election. They have since put in place new procedures to help stop false news and hoaxes but it will be a while before we know if this policy is working.
It is now an accepted fact among the intelligence community that Russia interfered in the election. There are currently four congressional committees and a special counsel investigating whether there was any collusion between the Trump team and Russia. They are also investigating what impact paid social media ads like these and other false news stories had on influencing the public.
Facebook currently has no knowledge of whether or not the ads were purchased in coordination with any Trump campaign associates.