House intel committee will release Russian-funded Facebook ads

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.   Drew Angerer  Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Drew Angerer Getty Images

A new report claims companies who advertise on social media platforms are growing nervous and may start to pull back their spending over fears of how and where their ads appear.

Facebook, along with Twitter and Google, are scheduled to testify before the House and Senate intelligence committees for back-to-back public hearings November 1 on Russian efforts to use social media platforms to influence the 2016 USA elections. This will be a long talked about topic, and as the investigation unfolds, there will no doubt be more to come.

Facebook, along with Twitter, alleges that its ads were purchased by a Kremlin-affiliated content farm known as the Internet Research Agency, based in St. Petersburg. Facebook also said the pages had placed 3,000 ads on its network at a cost of about $100,000. The source revealed that Google uncovered less than $100,000 in ad spending potentially linked to Russian operatives.

Schiff said congressional investigators will ask the companies "why it has taken them so long to discover the Russian use of their technology and how thorough their forensic effort has been, what the impediments are, and how much work remains to be done, and, of course, most importantly, how are they going to ferret this out in the future".

Targeted advertising rules on Facebook are about to get a lot more stringent. Both lawmakers and Facebook representatives have said that the apparent goal of the ads was to amplify political discord by exploiting tensions over hot-button political issues like race, immigration and gun rights.

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A spokesperson for Google said the company was "taking a deeper look to investigate attempts to abuse our systems, working with researchers and other companies", and that it would "provide assistance to ongoing inquiries".

Russia's ad purchases on Google, owned by Alphabet Inc. This, according to the report, was done to meddle in the last presidential election in the US. It also disclosed that the account for the news site RT, which the company linked to the Kremlin, spent $274,100 on its platform in 2016.

At times, the lack of hard evidence has driven wild conspiracy theories about Russian involvement in Trump's ascent to power.

Wednesday's meetings are ahead of a November 1 House Intelligence Committee hearing at which Facebook, Twitter and Google are expected to testify. Google has not said whether it will accept a similar invitation to do so. At the end of September, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) penned a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking that the company "ensure that discriminatory and tactically divisive ad-targeting is aggressively prevented".

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