Facebook discovered it sold $100,000 in ads during the 2016 presidential campaign to accounts linked to a Russian company, the social media company announced Wednesday.
Alex Stamos, Facebook's chief security officer, said in a blog post the company reviewed ad buys as part of its efforts to discover whether there was a connection between Russia's attempts to interfere in the 2016 election and ads bought on Facebook.
As part of its review, the social media company found $100,000 in ad spending from June 2015 to May 2017 that was tied to roughly 3,000 ads. That ad spending was connected to 470 "inauthentic accounts and pages" that violated Facebook's policies. Facebook's analysis of those accounts and pages found they were not only linked but were also likely run out of Russia.
Facebook shuttered the inauthentic accounts that remained active.
An official with Facebook told The Washington Post the ad sales were traced to a Russian "troll farm" called the Internet Research Agency, which has pushed pro-Russian propaganda.
Stamos said Facebook shared its findings with U.S. officials investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
According to Facebook, the "vast majority" of the ads didn't specifically reference the 2016 presidential election or Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who were both running for president at the time the ads were sold. Instead, the social media company said the ads focused on magnifying politically and socially divisive issues such as immigration, gun rights, race issues, and gay rights.
One-quarter of the ads targeted Facebook users in specific areas across the U.S., Stamos said, and more of the ads ran on the platform in 2015 during the presidential primaries than in 2016.
In addition to the $100,000 in advertising Facebook found it sold to accounts tied to the Russian company, the social media organization also said it discovered $50,000 in politically related ad spending on 2,200 ads, which were purchased by accounts that "might have originated in Russia."
"We know we have to stay vigilant to keep ahead of people who try to misuse our platform," Stamos said in his blog post. "We believe in protecting the integrity of civic discourse, and require advertisers on our platform to follow both our policies and all applicable laws. We also care deeply about the authenticity of the connections people make on our platform."
Special counsel Robert Mueller, as well as several congressional committees, are investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
McClatchy reported in July the House and Senate Intelligence committees, as well as the Justice Department, are examining whether the digital operation for the Trump campaign helped direct Russian cyber operatives toward specific voters to target with fake and negative news stories about Clinton, and Democrats have questioned how Russians knew to target specific states and voters.
"I get the fact that the Russian intel services could figure out how to manipulate and use the bots," Warner said during a podcast interview in May. "Whether they could know how to target states and levels of voters that the Democrats weren't even aware [of] really raises some questions. … How did they know to go to that level of detail in those kinds of jurisdictions?"