Facebook Claims Kremlin-Linked Content Seen by 126 Million

Facebook, Twitter and Google all agreed with US intelligence reports yesterday that their platforms had been used by Kremlin agents to spread misinformation and propaganda in a bid to influence the 2016 presidential election.

According to testimony at a Senate hearing seen by Infosecurity, Facebook general counsel, Colin Stretch, went into particular detail.

He admitted that 29 million Facebook users were served ads and promoted content directly from the 80,000 posts over a two-year period connected with the infamous Russian propaganda organ the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

However, thanks to viral sharing and promotion of content, the real number may be closer to 126 million users. That’s a far cry from the 10 million users the social network originally claimed saw the ads.

Although this equals 0.004% of content in News Feed, or one out of 23,000 pieces of content, it’s still a large number of people: more than a third of the US population, for example.

These ads are said to have been focused on “divisive social and political messages from across the ideological spectrum touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”

Twitter’s acting general counsel, Sean Edgett, claimed 2752 accounts were linked to the IRA, much more than the 201 originally found.

He added that 36,746 automated accounts were identified as Russian-linked and tweeting election-related content 1.4 million times, 0.74% of overall election-related posts on Twitter at the time.

Google got away pretty lightly, having found just two Russia-linked accounts on its ads network and a little over 1000 YouTube videos with political content, most with pretty low viewing figures.

Interestingly, Facebook also claimed it identified activity from a handful of accounts it assessed as belonging to infamous Kremlin hacking group APT28 (Fancy Bear).

“This activity, which was aimed at employees of major US political parties, fell into the normal categories of offensive cyber activities we monitor for. We warned the targets who were at highest risk, and were later in contact with law enforcement authorities about this activity,” Stretch testified.

“Later in the summer we also started to see a new kind of behavior from APT28-related accounts — namely, the creation of fake personas that were then used to seed stolen information to journalists. These fake personas were organized under the banner of an organization that called itself DC Leaks. This activity violated our policies, and we removed the DC Leaks accounts.”

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