Facebook says 126 million Americans may
have seen Russia-linked political posts
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[October 31, 2017]
By David Ingram
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Facebook Inc <FB.O>
said on Monday that Russia-based operatives published about 80,000 posts
on the social network over a two-year period in an effort to sway U.S.
politics and that about 126 million Americans may have seen the posts
during that time.
Facebook's latest data on the Russia-linked posts - possibly reaching
around half of the U.S. population of voting age - far exceeds the
company's previous disclosures. It was included in written testimony
provided to U.S. lawmakers, and seen by Reuters, ahead of key hearings
with social media and technology companies about Russian meddling in
elections on Capitol Hill this week.
Twitter Inc <TWTR.N> separately has found 2,752 accounts linked to
Russian operatives, a source familiar with the company's written
testimony said. That estimate is up from a tally of 201 accounts that
Twitter reported in September.
Google, owned by Alphabet Inc <GOOGL.O>, said in a statement on Monday
it had found $4,700 in Russia-linked ad spending during the 2016 U.S.
election cycle, and that it would build a database of election ads.
Executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google are scheduled to appear
before three congressional committees this week on alleged Russian
attempts to spread misinformation in the months before and after the
2016 U.S. presidential election.
The Russian government has denied any attempts to sway the election, in
which President Donald Trump, a Republican, defeated Democrat Hillary
Facebook's general counsel, Colin Stretch, said in the written testimony
that the 80,000 posts from Russia's Internet Research Agency were a tiny
fraction of content on Facebook, equal to one out of 23,000 posts.
However, the posts violated Facebook's terms of service, and any amount
of such activity using fake accounts is too much, Stretch wrote.
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A 3D-printed Facebook like button is seen in front of the Facebook
logo, in this illustration taken October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Dado
"These actions run counter to Facebook's mission of building
community and everything we stand for. And we are determined to do
everything we can to address this new threat," he wrote.
The 80,000 posts were published between June 2015 and August 2017.
Most of them focused on divisive social and political messages such
as race relations, Facebook said.
Twitter's revised estimate of how many Russia-linked accounts were
on its service comes a month after an influential Democratic
senator, Mark Warner, slammed it for what he called an insufficient
Twitter has suspended all 2,752 accounts that it tracked to Russia's
Internet Research Agency, and it has given U.S. congressional
investigators the account names, the source familiar with the
company's testimony said.
"State-sanctioned manipulation of elections by sophisticated foreign
actors is a new challenge for us - and one that we are determined to
meet," Twitter said in written testimony, according to the source.
(Reporting by David Ingram in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler
and Mary Milliken)
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