On Wednesday, Politico reported that an influence operation with suspected ties to Russia spent $150,000 promoting politically divisive posts for a two-year period that ended in May.
An audit found that the spending went to promoting articles featured by “inauthentic” accounts and pages that have since been suspended.
It’s believed that the spending was part of Russia’s multi-pronged approach to disrupting the U.S 2016 elections and sowing political chaos.
While $100,000 is comparatively little in terms of the money spend on advertising in the 2016 election, it’s curious that Russia would purchase the ads at all. None of them promoted either candidate specifically, but typically were racially inflammatory or played on hot-button issues like transgenderism, LGBTQ rights or immigration.
Alex Stamos — Facebook’s chief security officer — said in a Wednesday post, “In reviewing the [election 2016 political] ads buys, we have found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017 — associated with roughly 3,000 ads — that was connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.”
The ads were geographically targeted and aimed at sowing division. Many went out during the Republican and Democratic primaries.
“While the amount of spending on the ads was nominal at best, the fact that it even occurred is likely to reinforce concerns expressed by some Democrats that Russia may have used Facebook to promote narratives that flattered Trump and bashed Clinton in key Rust Belt swing states that helped the real estate mogul take the White House,” wrote Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn.