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Facebook Sold Ads To Russian-Linked Accounts During Election (cnet.com) 138

Facebook announced on Wednesday that it sold $100,000 worth of ads to inauthentic accounts likely linked to Russia during the election. The ad spending spree took place between June of 2015 and May of 2017, and was associated with roughly 3,000 ads. CNET reports: "Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia," Alex Stamos, Facebook's chief security officer, wrote in a blog post. Facebook said it's continuing to investigate the issue and reported its findings to U.S. authorities.

Most of the ads and accounts didn't have to explicitly do with the election or either of the then-candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Instead, they were focused on divisive political topics, including LGBT issues, immigration and gun rights.

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Facebook Sold Ads To Russian-Linked Accounts During Election

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  • Which countries did not buy ads from FB during the election?
  • by gatfirls ( 1315141 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2017 @05:26PM (#55150339)

    ...maybe there was something untoward going on in this last election cycle. Can't put my finger on it though.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hillary cheated bearnie sanders?

      • By cheated you mean "played hard ball" and "Super Delegates voted for her", like every Democratic Primary for the last thirty years.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          By cheated you mean "played hard ball" and "Super Delegates voted for her", like every Democratic Primary for the last thirty years.

          The irony being that the Democratic party has the least Democratic primary process because of Super Delegates.

          • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2017 @07:03PM (#55150747) Journal

            The irony being that the Democratic party has the least Democratic primary process because of Super Delegates.

            It's not irony at all. It's standard, in Public Relations, to claim to be the opposite of whatever unpopular things you are, in order to confuse the general public.

            Just like it's standard to preemptively accuse the opponents of doing whatever bad stuff it is that they do, so if somebody calls them on it it looks like a playground-argument: "You're a FOO!"
            "No, YOU'RE a FOO!"

            Want to know what the Democrats are? Just go down the list of everything bad they've ever accused the Republicans of being.

            It's not symmetric. The Rs attract a DIFFERENT KIND of psychopath - the rule-bound, compensated sort, rather than the narcissistic, pathological liar, anything goes types. Working with Rs is like working with dynamite: Everything is fine until you do something that makes them think you're a bad guy, then BANG! Working with Ds is like working with nitroglycerine: BANG! at any moment for no apparent reason.

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

              The fundamental difference between R and D is this:

              Republicans want to change society by forcing people to behave a certain way.

              Democrats want to change society through the tax system.

              • This really reads like an ironic joke.. But I've never observed you having the where-with-all to make such a joke.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            I heard this a thousand times during the primary season. Show me where in US law it states that the primaries need to be democratic at all. You as a voter are not a part of a political party, you are a person associated with a political party (if you choose to be). You can become part of the party itself by actually being a delegate or working within the democratic/republican/green/etc infrastructure, but the vast majority of folks are not that.

            Are superdelegates undemocratic? Sure, but they have value.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Democrats are so fucking retarded that they expect people to believe nothing suspicious happened there even though THEY THEMSELVES fired their chairwoman for corruption and have multiple people on tape admitting to massive fraud.

        • By cheating, we mean the following:

          - faked coin flips
          - was given debate questions ahead of time
          - removed Bernie supporters from the registration rolls
          and more...

          And we're only talking about the crap we know about.

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2017 @11:49PM (#55151691)
      at best, designed to deliberately mislead you to a desired conclusion at worst. From the blog post:
      • The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn't specifically reference the US presidential election, voting or a particular candidate.
      • Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum -- touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.
      • About one-quarter of these ads were geographically targeted, and of those, more ran in 2015 than 2016.
      • The behavior displayed by these accounts to amplify divisive messages was consistent with the techniques mentioned in the white paper we released in April about information operations.

      Considering the U.S. has elections every 2 years, if running ads a year before the election counts as attempting to influence the election, then every ad run at any time is attempting to influence the upcoming election.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Considering the U.S. has elections every 2 years, if running ads a year before the election counts as attempting to influence the election, then every ad run at any time is attempting to influence the upcoming election.

        Correct.

        That's how politicians do it now. Obama was the first to really embrace it, he never really stopped campaigning after winning the first time. Trump is doing it now, continuing to do rallies and campaign stuff. Campaigning never stops these days, it's just a bit less intense the further from the next election you get.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm outraged (because apparently that's trendy) that some persons who may have been linked to some *Russians* bought advertising from there world's largest social network. This definitely proves that someone somewhere is doing something and there's a chance it's got something to do with someone who has some links to someone in Trump's cabinet.

  • I'li bet they sold a lot of ads to the chinese as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Traitors. Our countrymen have fought and died for this country you now desecrate.

    All for the Red party.

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2017 @05:40PM (#55150403)

    I don't think BeauHD (or CNet, or both) know what a "spree" is.

  • by Marlin Schwanke ( 3574769 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2017 @05:43PM (#55150419)
    How few people give a crap about a foreign power invading our country by stealth. Sowing dissension, stealing sensitive political and commercial data, and yes, doing their damnedest to influence an election, if not to alter the outcome then to cause as much suspicion as to undermine the results. So many of you making snarky or pithy comments, oh how smart you sound to everyone. +1s for the lot of you. Russia and China are not our friends. They have said as much many times. They have bragged about how cheap and easy it is for them to hack our open society compared to the billions we spend. From some of the comments I read here, mission accomplished for our enemies.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Even less people give a crap about who Facebook sells it's services to.
      Why don't you turn your rage on Facebook?
      By all accounts, THEY are solely responsible for "influencing the election".
      Because a remotely Russian-related company bought some vaguely political advertising space?
      Good lord, they're amateurs, the USA just finances, arms and trains the terrorists directly.
      Countless times, foreign governments far and wide, no one is exempt from the American influence.
      Overturned, assassinated, corrupted, invalida

      • a remotely Russian-related company bought some vaguely political advertising space?

        I love to read Anonymous Coward's comments in a fake russian accent. It adds a lot of depth.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Facebook is investigating US accounts with language set to Russian. What's next? Internment camps?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Russia narrative you've been fed is a lie. [mishtalk.com]

      It's just the butt hurt elite lashing out at Trump because they didn't get their way. The same response you see from children when they lose a game and refuse to accept it. Always someone else's fault.

      • The independent researchers cited in that article, Forensicator and Adam Carter, were talking about what Guccifer2.0 leaked in September, not what Wikileaks released in July.

        Adam Carter wrote this [g-2.space], where he said:

        [...] this was metadata from the 'leaked' files, which Guccifer 2.0 released in September of 2016 and had absolutely nothing to do with Wikileaks , this conflation of Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0 is a mistake many in the MSM have made throughout 2016-2017 and one I had hoped some may have learned from but evidently they haven't.

        The emphasis is his.

      • It is entirely possible that the Russians attempted (and perhaps succeeded) in influencing the election, but no collusion occurred. It is even plausible that if the Russians did try to influence the election, a logical further action would be to make it seems as though collusion DID take place. Until the full investigation is complete, taking a position on either side is just playing into the Russian goal of undermining faith in our democracy, or partisan tribal politics. Mueller is generally agreed to
        • by Anonymous Coward

          http://www.mintpressnews.com/anthrax-russiagate-muellers-special-counsel-appointment-raise-concern/228317/

          Mueller doesn't have the slightest bit of credibility. It blows my mind when people sing praises about him, it's like you've lived in a totally different universe with an alternative history. This is the guy who oversaw the completely blotched anthrax investigation (and going by what some people have said, possibly intentionally blotched), then later went on to push the neo-conservative propaganda tha

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How few people give a crap about a foreign power invading our country by stealth. Sowing dissension, stealing sensitive political and commercial data, and yes, doing their damnedest to influence an election, if not to alter the outcome then to cause as much suspicion as to undermine the results.

      That's the SOP for Americans messing in other countries' elections. If it was true that Russians manipulated your election, then welcome to have a taste of your own medicine! What's good for the goose and all that.

    • The 1980s called - they want their foreign policy back! LOL!!!

      Geeze.

    • by swell ( 195815 )

      Darn right! After all, the good ole USA would never tamper with other governments or overthrow elected leaders or cause countless deaths in manipulating foreign leadership. The US would never arm terrorists, support drug cartels or cause economic damage to other nations.

      We're the Good Guys! God Bless America!

    • They have bragged about how cheap and easy it is for them to hack our open society...

      What many otherwise bright and internet-savvy people don't realize is that a few carefully written ads about gun control, abortion, immigration or taxes, which are targeted to the people who care about those issues most, can be fiercely motivating in the final days of an election. Pure propaganda works best, of course, as true believers don't fact-check. Multiply that effect by 100,000,000 page views and you wind up swinging a few key precincts. Get used to the new way of influencing popular thought.
      Exp

    • You're actually afraid of TEH COMMIEZ! An educated, erudite adult is actually pushing the tired old TEH COMMIEZ! narrative? The Cold War ended 30 years ago. Tell you what, Dad will check under your bed for TEH COMMIEZ before you go to sleep, ok?

      I was taught in college that the reason so many countries hate America is that America is a total asshole. Genocide, weapons sales, CIA coups...what needs to happen is America stop bullying the world and pull back and attend to its own interests. Stop meddling

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hairyfeet ( 841228 )

      Oh please! The Russians didn't have to do shit, Shillary destroying evidence, taking hammers to her devices, and shilling her office to Qatar while calling everyone who disagreed with her an "ist" guaranteed you could run the corpse of Jimmy Hoffa and kick her ass!

      Look up her approval numbers before the election...it was at 16%, after all the media slobbering all over her and singing her praises for nearly 2 years? Her numbers were..drumroll...15%. the woman was and is HATED because she is a lying manipulat

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        A bit of revisionist history there. As I recall Hilary had 30 odd years of attacks from the media, the email thing amounted to basically nothing in the end (and it looks like Trump's people have been doing it too), and there was a huge amount of pure bullshit posted about her right before the vote (e.g. the list of people she murdered, Pizzagate).

        I seem to recall that a large number of emails were "leaked" by some person who appears to have links to Russia right before the election, and even though the FBI

    • Our own government is not our friend. Has engaged is far more of the above. And is probably now more of a danger to the U.S. than a foreign power.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    100k over two years does not seem to be a huge FB buy? "divisive political topics" could be rewritten as Facebook click bait.
    Or what am I missing?

    • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Thursday September 07, 2017 @02:37AM (#55152019)

      What are you missing? Among other things, this:

      One hundred thousand dollars in ad spending might not sound like a lot of money, but it is a big deal for at least five reasons.

      First, it confirms that Facebook was one of the pathways by which Russian operatives sought to influence the U.S. election.

      Second, it raises the question of how those Russian operatives knew which U.S. voters to target, and whether the Trump campaign might have played any role.

      Third, it casts a new light on Facebook's "fake news" problem, which looks more sinister if some of the misinformation spread on the platform in the run-up to the U.S. election was fueled by Russian-funded ad dollars or troll networks.

      Fourth, it suggests that Facebook may have a more widespread oversight problem in its ad sales. As the Post's story notes, it is illegal for foreign nationals or governments to buy ads or spend money aimed at influencing a U.S. election. It now seems clear they have been using Facebook to do just that.

      Finally, while $100,000 amounts to a miniscule fraction of U.S. election spending, it could go a long way in amplifying posts among a targeted audience. Facebook said only about 25 percent of the ads were geographically targeted. But it's worth remembering that the company has a history of not being forthcoming when it comes to the scale and mechanisms of misinformation on its platform. It's possible that the activities the company has uncovered and disclosed so far represent only a small part of a larger problem.

      http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2017/09/06/why_russian_operatives_buying_american_political_ads_on_facebook_is_such.html

      • You read slate that is why you believe the wrong things.
        That article is wrong in a bunch of places. 1) Foreign nations can purchase ads and try to influence the election provided it is over an issue. See recent DACA speeches. 2) Green card holders can donate but cannot vote.
        If we are looking at foreign influence there are far better examples such as the chinese attempts to donate to campaigns. When that was found out they instead directed money to the 501(c) directly controlled by the candidate.
        Sour
        • "You read slate that is why you believe the wrong things.

          Cut the crap. Unlike you, apparently, I get my information from a lot of sources. This includes conservative publications.

          If you can dispute any of the information I provided above, do so...specifically.

          Your link is worthless, as you know. It goes to the entire Federal Election Commission site. If you think I'm going to waste time crawling through the whole thing attempting to substantiate your claims, you're sadly mistaken.

          • by q4Fry ( 1322209 )

            While I don't think you "believe the wrong things" because you "read slate," Will has at least one salient point. The FEC page [fec.gov] with a relevant summary of the issues has some exceptions, including the Green Card holders he mentioned. There's also a section about Non-Election Activity, which appears to be rather nuanced, particularly the paragraph that reads

            In AO 1989-32, the Commission concluded that although foreign nationals could make disbursements solely to influence ballot issues, a foreign national could not contribute to a ballot committee that had coordinated its efforts with a nonfederal candidate's re-election campaign.

            On the other hand, I was surprised to find that PAC activity (except volunteering) of pretty much any kind was forbidden in fairly specific terms, as well

      • You are a Kool-Aid drinker if we ever saw one. Can you share some of that stuff you've been smoking?

  • "Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia," Alex Stamos, Facebook's chief security officer, wrote in a blog post. Facebook said it's continuing to investigate the issue and reported its findings to U.S. authorities.

    What the poor jerk doesn't want to acknowledge is that thanks in part to Facebook, the US authorities he's reporting his results to are now controlled by Russia.

    Thanks, Facebook, for your timely investigation.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The story behind Facebook can be found in "The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal" [amzn.to] by Ben Mezrich, which "The Social Network" [amzn.to] movie was based on. "The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network" [amzn.to] by Katherine Losse takes place after the movie and from a woman's perspective that I'm currently reading. The most recent Facebook-related book is "Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley" [amzn.to] by Antonio Garcia Martinez,

  • So what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ArylAkamov ( 4036877 )

    Pretty meaningless if they don't give any other information. How many other foreign countries buy ads on facebook?
    How many others buy ads that are political in nature?
    They're just singling out Russia because red scare 2.0 and they know it will get clicks. Boring.

  • Clearly, a world influencing behemoth like FaceBook should not be allowed to sell advertisements period. It's just too risky. Hell, I might want to buy a Korean car or an Italian vacation or, OMG, watch an expose on DACA "children".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Obama literally threatened Brits about which way to vote, and now the Americans are making a fuss over Russia posting some ads to try to change peoples mind.

    • Not that simple. The ads were targeted very specifically. A large number were "narrowcast" at certain geographic areas...perhaps even down to the district level. It is very likely US citizens helped the Russians with this.

      US law is very clear about foreign interests spending money to influence a US election. It is illegal. Good luck dragging a Russian military intelligence expert into court to face charges, though. However, anybody in the US who actively assisted, for example by providing granular dat

      • Not that simple. The ads were targeted very specifically. A large number were "narrowcast" at certain geographic areas...perhaps even down to the district level. It is very likely US citizens helped the Russians with this.

        Probably just used the data that Facebook collects by tracking people 24/7 all over the interwebs. Of course they wouldn't use all that data to help ad campaigns to '"narrowcast" at certain geographic areas' or anything like that, they collect it for, umm... different reasons?

        The level of naivety is staggering sometimes...

        • One quarter of the currently known ads were targeted geographically. The others used other criteria.

          The level of asshattery is staggering sometimes...

      • Really, okay, so they targeted folks who were pro-gun, and pro-life, highly targeted....yada yada.

        And do you think ANY of that demographic was going to vote for Hillary? Duh...

  • 1) $100,000 in what is touted as an election that involved $6+ billion in campaigning. Um, drop in the bucket.

    2) We have freedom of speech and freedom of press. That means even Russia is within their right to take out full page ads and express their views. And since the United States conducts international business, including with Russian firms and individuals, why would we expect them not to have an opinion on matters that could affect their economic investments with the U.S.?

    3) "Most of the ads and acc

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