US

Facebook Confirms Russian Operatives Organized Rallies In America

Facebook confirmed that Russian operatives deceitfully organized and promulgated political protests in America, according to The Daily Beast.

The social media giant told congressional investigators last week that it sold political ads to a Russian firm during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Facebook allegedly told The Daily Beast that it “shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown described last week,” but specified that one of the events focused on aggressive advocacy for vastly curbing immigration rates. It also reportedly verified that the rallies were promoted via paid advertisements.

Representatives for the company allege that it didn’t discover the details of its own deal until later on. A company spokesman told CNN in July that they’ve “seen no evidence that Russian actors bought ads on Facebook in connection with the election.”

After finally detecting the origin of the advertisements, Facebook told U.S. officials that most of the advertisements didn’t center on then-Republican nominee Donald Trump or then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Instead, they addressed a number of other highly schismatic political issues, like gay rights, gun rights, immigration, and racism, reports The Washington Post. The ad sales merely amounted to $100,000. As Axios reporter Sara Fischer notes, that is a very small amount, especially over a two-year time span. The ad buy likely did very little to sway many people’s voting opinions.

But the prospect of Russian companies who may have connections to the Kremlin trying to cultivate an even further schismatic political landscape in America is another aspect that worries lawmakers who long feared Russia’s influence on the U.S. presidential election.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, a leader on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, described the evidence revealed last week as a “profound warning to us and others about future elections,” according to WaPo.

What degree purported Russian interference in America ultimately had in the election is not clear. But Facebook’s affirmations shows that certain people within the country — with, for now, uncertain connections to the Kremlin — tried to sow seeds of divisiveness, or at least inflame the already impassioned electorate.

The Daily Beast points to a now defunct event hosted by a dubious organization referred to as “SecuredBorders.”

“We must stop taking in Muslim refugees! We demand open and thorough investigation of all the cases regarding Muslim refugees!” the page reads, according to a search engine cache version. “All government officials, who are covering up for these criminals, should be fired!”

Roughly 133,000 accounts “followed” the Facebook group’s page, which, according to The Daily Beast, Facebook shut down after it found out that the operators were part of a Russian contingent.

“We have shared our findings with US authorities investigating these issues, and we will continue to work with them as necessary,” Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said in a blog post. (RELATED: Zuckerberg Might Just Make Russia’s 25-Year-Old Spy Dreams A Reality)

The social media company handed over all information to special counsel Robert Mueller, according to CNBC, which included copies of the ads and the ostensible identity of the purchasers. Mueller is currently investigating Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential contest. Trump has described the investigation as a “witch hunt” on multiple occasions.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said Thursday that he anticipates Twitter will also soon brief congressional investigators on Russian activity on its platform, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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