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Facebook says it sold ads to Russian troll farm during 2016 election

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Posted at 2:08 PM, Sep 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-06 17:08:42-04

Facebook told congressional investigators on Wednesday that it sold political ads during the 2016 U.S. presidential election to a so-called Russian troll farm that was looking to target American voters.

"In reviewing the ads buys, we have found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017 — associated with roughly 3,000 ads — that was connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies," Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said in a statement.

"Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia," Stamos said.

Facebook did not specify whether these were traditional advertisements or sponsored posts, but said they were intended to amplify "divisive social and political messages" ranging from "LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights."

The revelation, first reported by the Washington Post, comes amid ongoing investigations into Russia's interference in the U.S. election, including the use of social media to spread fake news and propaganda.

Facebook said it shut down accounts involved that were still active. Representatives from the company's security and policy divisions did not respond to requests for comment.

In the meantime, the company is facing mounting criticism over its decision not to release the ads or explain what role it played in the targeting of these ads.

"It is completely unacceptable that Facebook says it will not release the actual ads it showed to its users," Pierre Omidyar, the entrepreneur and eBay founder, wrote on Twitter.

-- CNN's Tom LoBianco contributed reporting.

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