There has been a large amount of media coverage concerning possible Russian involvement in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in the United States. No concrete link has been found to implicate the Russians as far as tampering with the election results is concerned. However, Facebook has recently revealed an interesting piece of info that shows the Russians were very interested in who won the election. There were hundreds of fake accounts that were created from Russian IP addresses that bought ads on Facebook. The ads started running in 2015 when people who were planning on running for president were announcing their candidacies. The accounts continued to purchase ads until early 2017.
The content of the ads is very interesting. The ads were not telling people to vote for Trump. There were also no ads criticizing Hillary Clinton. In fact the election and any candidates who were running were never mentioned. The ads focused on issues concerning race, immigration, the right to own guns and gay rights. Roughly one quarter of the ads targeted specific parts of the United States. All of the fake Russian accounts seem to be controlled by the same people. Overall, the people in charge of the accounts bought more than $100,000 in Facebook ads.
All of the fake Russian accounts have been deleted because they violated several of Facebook’s user policies. The social media giant then told people involved in federal law enforcement about the fake accounts. It remains to be seen if the U.S. government will conduct an official investigation into the matter. It is also not known why it took so long for Facebook to determine the accounts were from Russia. Facebook released a statement that they are taking steps to monitor the way that the platform is used in the future to prevent people in foreign countries from abusing it for their own purposes.
Facebook was the subject of major criticism last year when many fake news stories originated on the social media site. Many of the stories were not immediately removed. Instead, they were allowed to be shared thousands of times. Facebook was then forced to take steps to regulate the news stories that get shared on their platform. However, that is a difficult thing to do with more than 1.5 billion global users. Facebook has said that it has installed new safeguards to prevent people from buying ads in the same manner the Russians did.