Saturday, 23 September, 2017

What Russian trolls could have bought for $100000 on Facebook

Julio Alvarez  Getty Images Julio Alvarez Getty Images
Velma Reese | 10 September, 2017, 14:07

A Facebook blog post on the matter said the social media company was paid about $150,000 by Russia-linked sources to run thousands of ads related to the election, but most of the ads didn't explicitly mention the candidates or call for votes.

He said they were connected to about 470 "inauthentic" Facebook pages and accounts, which seemed to be affiliated and "likely operated out of Russian Federation".

Facebook said it has also done a broad search for ads that might have originated in Russia, for example, ads purchased from accounts with U.S. IP addresses but with the language set to Russian.

For months, Facebook has faced scrutiny over how large-scale operations may have used the platform's huge reach and its narrow targeting ability to influence voters amid the campaign, and since the election, even Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg have evolved from dismissing the platform's potential role to admitting that it is vulnerable to manipulation and misuse. Facebook claims that the advertisement sales were linked to a "troll" farm based in Russian Federation called the Internet Research Agency that reportedly spread propaganda online. "If they want to get into the RNC, they will get in", he said.

Congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller are probing allegations of Russian interference in the US election and possible coordination with members of President Donald Trump's campaign.

Commenting at a conference on corporate political activities, Hunter, a Republican, said that the Facebook development was unlikely to lead soon to any new FEC rules governing foreign money in USA elections.

The amount of ad spending identified by Facebook is infinitesimal compared with the total amount spent during the election. What Facebook found may be only "a small piece of the election interference through social media", the senator from Virginia said.

Stamos stated that Facebook would be improving their efforts to crack down on bot accounts and misinformation and would take steps such as, "reducing stories from sources that consistently post clickbait headlines that withhold and exaggerate information".

ICC Rankings: James Anderson dethrones Ravindra Jadeja as No. 1 Test bowler
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Beyond the issue ads, Facebook said it uncovered $50,000 more in overtly political advertising that might have a link to Russian Federation.

A Facebook official said "there is evidence that some of the accounts are linked to a troll farm in St. Petersburg, referred to as the Internet Research Agency, though we have no way to independently confirm".

According to The Daily Beast, while Facebook admitted its platform was abused, it did not release the ads in question.

In response to Facebook's findings, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has affirmed that Russian Federation was not involved with the campaign.

If Russia were found to have used front companies or loosely regulated US nonprofit groups to hide the source of funding while spreading fake or harshly critical news about Clinton over Facebook, then investigators would want to know whether any were targeted to swing states or districts crucial to Trump's upset victory. It said it could not categorically identify a government behind this, though the United States has accused Russian Federation of hacking its elections.

Facebook's chief security officer, Alex Stamos, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday that the ads cost about $100,000. Facebook's Ads Manager claims to have a potential reach of 41 million people in the US between the ages of 18-24, but the US Census Bureau estimated there were only 31 million people in that age range past year, according to the Pivotal Research Group, a New York-based equity research firm.

Facebook also allows advertisers to create "unpublished page posts", sometimes referred to by researchers in the field as "dark posts". However, according to social media analysts, the average Facebook ad is $6 for 1,000 impressions.

What investigators in Washington also want to know is whether any Americans, especially those within the Trump orbit, might have played any role in advising Russians on where to target their influence operations within the U.S. But in 2002, Congress broadened the ban on foreign money. That figure includes spending on national, state and local elections.

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