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October 3, 2017

10M Facebook Users Saw Russian Ads

Flickr photo by Maria Elena

Facebook ads purchased by a Russian group to spread misinformation during the U.S. presidential race were seen by 10 million Americans both before and after the election.

Of the 3,000 ads, approximately 25 percent of them were never viewed at all, while others were viewed by thousands, according to Facebook stats.

“Our ad targeting is designed to show people ads they might find useful, instead of showing everyone ads that they might find irrelevant or annoying,” Facebook vice-president of policy and communications Elliot Schrage said in a blog post. “But we know ad targeting can be abused, and we aim to prevent abusive ads from running on our platform.”

The social networking firm recently admitted to selling roughly $100,000 worth of ads between June 2015 and May 2017 that led to fake news pages. These ads have since been linked to 470 fake accounts out of Russia.

It is believed many of these ads were used to spread misinformation during the U.S. election in the hopes of swaying the vote in favor of now-President Donald Trump.

Facebook has admitted it was not equipped to deal with those types of sneaky ads. That’s because its contractors focused on weeding out violent and sexually explicit content rather than political fodder.

But, according to Schrage, that is all going to change.

“To begin, ads containing certain types of targeting will now require additional human review and approval,” he said. “And in order to do better at catching abuse on our platform, we’re announcing a number of improvements, including: Making advertising more transparent, strengthening enforcement against improper ads, tightening restrictions on advertiser content, increasing requirements for authenticity and establishing industry standards and best practices.”

Facebook, Schrage added, would likely have “caught these malicious actors faster and prevented more improper ads from running” if these measures had been put in place sooner.

Schrage, in his post, answered a number of questions that have popped up as a result of the recent revelations of Russian-purchased ads.

To read his full post, click here.


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.