Facebook has admitted that some of the ads it sold during last year’s US presidential election campaign were bought by a shadowy Russian company that was trying to influence individual voters.
In a blog post, Facebook’s chief security officer Alex Stamos said they had traced $100,000 worth of sales to a Russian “troll farm” which has been linked to past efforts to spread pro-Kremlin propaganda.
Some of the ads named then-Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to US media reports, although Facebook would not say which candidate had been favored.
Most of the ads focused “on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum,” wrote Stamos in his post, “touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”
Although the amount of money involved is relatively small, Facebook’s admission has added fuel to the already combustible issue of Russia’s alleged interference in last year’s election - and whether there was any coordination with the Trump team.
It has also put the social media giant on the defensive, following persistent criticism that it had turned a blind eye to disinformation and fake news being spread on its pages during the campaign — something the company had denied.