An estimated 10 million people in the US saw the Facebook political ads purchased by Russia-linked accounts during last year's presidential campaign, the social network has revealed.
Most of those ads, which Facebook has provided to Congress to aid its investigations into Russian interference in the election, "appear to focus on divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum," Facebook's Vice President of Policy and Communications Elliot Schrage wrote in a Monday blog post. They touched on topics ranging from "LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights," he added.
Continue Reading Below
The post also suggests that most people who saw the more than 3,000 Russian-placed ads didn't encounter them until after the election on Nov. 8. Forty-four percent of the ads' total impressions (a term that refers to the number of times an ad was displayed) were from before the election while 56 percent were from after the election, Schrage wrote. About 25 percent of the ads were never shown to anyone.
"We understand that Facebook has become an important platform for social and political expression in the US and around the world," Schrage wrote. "We are focused on developing greater safeguards against malicious interference in elections and strengthening our advertising policies and enforcement to prevent abuse."
Facebook yesterday announced a series of steps it plans to take to prevent this type of abuse on its platform in the future. The company promised to make ads more transparent, beef up its enforcement against improper ads, tighten its restrictions on advertiser content, increase its authenticity requirements, and establish industry standards and best practices to fight these types of threats.
The changes come after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week expressed regret for saying in November that fake news on Facebook influencing the election was a "pretty crazy idea."
"Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. "This is too important an issue to be dismissive. But the data we have has always shown that our broader impact—from giving people a voice to enabling candidates to communicate directly to helping millions of people vote—played a far bigger role in this election."
Meanwhile, Twitter has also recently shared with Congress a "round-up of ads" that Russia's state-run TV network Russia Today targeted to US users in 2016. It also announced the shutdown of accounts associated with Russia-linked ad campaigns that ran on Facebook during last year's election.
Twitter, Facebook, and Google have been invited to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Nov. 1.