Facebook Gave Mueller Information On Russian Ads It Found On Platform

Frederick Owens
September 17, 2017

Representatives of Facebook previously told congressional investigators that, during the course of an investigation into the site's role in the 2016 election, it had discovered that a Kremlin-linked firm had bought $100,000 of ads between 2015 and 2017.

Facebook hasn't shared the same information with Congress, largely because of concerns about disrupting the Mueller probe, and possibly breaking USA data privacy laws, the Journal said. Facebook marketing is becoming increasingly important for election strategy, but social media ads are not legally required to provide the same transparency as ads that run on more traditional forums like television.

The social networking site, based in Menlo Park, Calif., has not shared such detailed information with Congress, "in part because of concerns about disrupting the Mueller probe, and possibly running afoul of USA privacy laws", the Journal reported. The propaganda was traced back to almost 500 inauthentic accounts and pages, the company said.

Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN last week that Facebook had not turned over the ads to Congress. Warner has also called Facebook's review "the tip of the iceberg", and suggested that more work needs to be done in order to ascertain the full scope of Russia's use of social media.

The disclosure, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, may give Mueller's office a fuller picture of who was behind the ad buys and how the ads may have influenced voter sentiment during the 2016 election.

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"This is big news", said former Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence agent Asha Rangappa, "and potentially bad news for the Russian election interference 'deniers'".

On Saturday, Mariotti said, the Facebook search warrant "means that Mueller has concluded that specific foreign individuals committed a crime by making a "contribution" in connection with an election".

The report said a Facebook spokesperson said the company was continuing to investigate and was cooperating with authorities, and that a spokesperson for Mueller declined to comment.

Facebook said the ads from inauthentic accounts did not mention Trump or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"We know we have to stay vigilant to keep ahead of people who try to misuse our platform", said Stamos.

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