Million People May Have Seen Russian-Linked Content On Facebook

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According to The Washington Post, the hearing by a Senate judiciary subcommittee comes after the prepared testimonies of Facebook and Twitter revealed that, unknown to them, Russian-backed accounts used their respective sites to share and promote content aimed at causing political unrest.

Facebook says a Russian internet agency posted more than 80,000 pieces of content during and after the 2016 election, and that content was distributed to an estimated 126 million users.

Google said that two accounts linked to the Russian group spent $4,700 on ads its platforms during the 2016 election.

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The company estimates that roughly 29 million people were directly "served" posts in their feeds from the agency.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) started the hearing by describing it as a national security challenge. "I mean certainly there's no doubt that the president of the United States believes that Twitter is a very important platform for communication", she said.

"And we are determined to do everything we can to address this new threat", Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said in his written testimony.

But the company has not previously discussed how many people saw Russia-linked interference content shared organically through the site. Although Google had provided advertisers with the option of targeting ads at left-wingers or right-wingers, the Russian trolls did not use that tactic, Google said. "Those accounts and Pages violated Facebook's policies - which is why we removed them, as we do with all fake or malicious activity we find".

Google on Monday acknowledged for the first time that its platforms were also compromised, revealing that Russian trolls uploaded over a thousand videos to YouTube on 18 different channels. "The tools are way deeper than you folks have even scratched the surface of", he wants to tell lawmakers.

But Google appears poised to claim its products and services played a much smaller role in any Russian influence campaign. But if we're to believe in the ideal of any campaign finance rules, then we have to believe that now is the time to ensure that the internet is not subject to the propagandistic whims of nations that seek only to destabilize and to divide the U.S.

It found a total of 36,746 accounts that appeared to be associated with Russia, though not necessarily with the Internet Research Agency, which generated automated, election-related content.

Google also said that it found "no evidence" that state-linked or state-funded actors used improper methods to try to boost their rankings in search results. Facebook has grown in the span of just 13 years from a handful of college students to over 2 billion monthly users; with advertising revenue close to $27 billion last year alone.

Facebook's Stretch plans in his remarks to welcome a discussion of new legislation without endorsing a proposal from Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Warner and Republican John McCain requiring online political advertising to comply with the same disclosure requirements as broadcast ads.

Twitter announced last week it would no longer accept advertising from Russia Today and Sputnik, two Russian government-backed media groups that allegedly hone their stories and news placement for political impact. It will provide a public database of election ads detailing who purchased each one, and will publish a transparency report on election ads as well.