10 Million People Saw Russian Ads - Facebook

Christian Cutler October 03, 2017
10 Million People Saw Russian Ads - Facebook

Facebook said on Monday that around 10 million people saw political ads allegedly bought by Russian agents, who were trying to meddle with the 2016 US presidential election.

The social media giant also said that it was “possible” that there could be more of such ads that would surface as its investigation progresses. This marks the first time ever that the company disclosed such statistics with the public.

On the same day, the details on around 3,000 ads were also sent to the Congressional Committee members in the Senate and the House, who are in-charge of looking into the methods that the Russian entities used in an attempt to sway last year’s controversial election.

According to the press release that Facebook published, 44 percent of the ads were displayed before the November 2016 election, and 56 percent were displayed after the election.

However, 25 percent of the ads were never shown to anyone. “That’s because advertising auctions are designed so that ads reach people based on relevance, and certain ads may not reach anyone as a result,” said Facebook.

In the coming weeks, Facebook representatives are set to appear before three different committees to give statements, to confirm, and to deny inquiries on the Russian ad campaign. These Russian ads were reported to exhibit divisive posts that could sway voters.

Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s founder and chief executive officer, said late last year that it was a “crazy” idea to think that the social media site was used to influence the outcome of the election, in which Donald Trump won over Hillary Clinton. However, on September 21, Zuckerberg apologized for the comment and said he regretted it. More recently, Zuckerberg slammed a critical tweet by Donald Trump, who criticized Facebook and called it "anti-Trump

“Now, I wish I could tell you we’re going to be able to stop all interference, but that wouldn’t be realistic. There will always be bad people in the world, and we can’t prevent all governments from all interference. But we can make it harder. We can make it a lot harder. And that’s what we are going to do,” Zuckerberg said in a post last month.

Russia has denied the allegations and maintained that it did not have anything to do with the presidential election.

Moreover, the social media giant has admitted that some limits exist over its ability to prevent people from using the website to undermine democracy.

“Even when we have taken all steps to control abuse, there will be political and social content that will appear on our platform that people will find objectionable, and that we will find objectionable. We permit these messages because we share the values of free speech,” said the company in a statement.

Facebook also announced its plans to hire 1,000 new people who will be tasked to be moderators on the platform. These people will manually review ads and purchases. Additionally, the company said it will invest more in the development of its machine learning technology to make the flagging and taking down of ads much faster and more accurate.

According to a spokesperson, the move is aimed at bringing more nuanced assessment to the method Facebook uses in reviewing not only the content of ads but also the context in which they were purchased. The tech giant is also developing a way to identify targeting patterns that could signal potential meddling before sending those ads to human moderators.

The company said that it will also require more comprehensive documentation from ad buyers in order to make it harder for them to run US federal election-related ads. Last week, the company reported that it successfully partnered with German officials to fend off bad actors during the German federal elections.

Aside from Facebook, Twitter and Google are also expected to testify about the Russian interference in the coming weeks.


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Christian Cutler

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