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Facebook says 126 million could have seen Russian-backed posts

People who saw the ads were exposed to what Facebook called 'deeply disturbing' content.


Kris Seavers

Layer 8

Posted on Oct 30, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 12:48 pm CDT

Facebook estimates that during the 2016 presidential election, 126 million of its users were exposed to content generated from a Russian government-linked “troll farm,” CNN reported Monday.  

In a written testimony obtained by CNN, Facebook said 29 million people were directly served content from the Internet Research Agency (IRA)—the Russian government-linked source. After sharing, “approximately 126 million people,” or more than half of the U.S. voting population, could have seen the content in their News Feeds.

Facebook doesn’t know how many people actually saw one of the posts, as opposed to scrolled past it or didn’t log into the social platform on the day the content would have appeared, CNN reported.

In a written testimony, Facebook insisted that the posts from the IRA represented “a tiny fraction of the overall content on Facebook.”

But the people who did see the ads saw what Facebook’s testimony called “deeply disturbing” content.

“Most of the ads appear to focus on divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum, touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights,” Facebook said. “A number of the ads encourage people to follow Pages on these issues, which in turn produced posts on similarly charged subjects.”

Lawyers representing Facebook, Twitter, and Google will appear in public hearings before Senate and House committees this week to explain how their platforms were used to gain leverage in U.S. politics through Russian interference.

On Oct. 2, Facebook handed over 3,000 Russia-linked advertisements to Congress. Mark Zuckerberg admitted the social media giant sold $100,000 in ads to a Russian company during the election.   


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*First Published: Oct 30, 2017, 7:48 pm CDT