Facebook is finally making clear just how pervasive Russia-bought political ads were on its platform in the days and weeks before and after the election.
Around 10 million Facebook users saw Russia-bought political ads, according to new information released on Monday night by the company.
The disclosure, which the company previously shared with Congress, marks the first time the social network has shared how many of its users saw the $100,000 worth of political ads linked to Russian actors.
Facebook has still not shared the content of the ads, but Facebook’s VP of Policy and Communication Elliott Schrage said the ads tended to focus on “divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum” and that many of them directed people to follow pages related to issues such as LGBT issues, immigration policy, and gun rights.
Notably, not all of the ads Facebook found to be linked to Russia were bought prior to the election. Forty-four percent were seen before the election and 56 percent were seen after Nov. 8, according to Facebook. About a quarter of the Russia-linked ads never made it in front of any Facebook users, the company said.
The ads are also notable in that they appear to be smaller-scale ads targeted toward specific groups of people. Fifty percent of the ad buys cost less than $3 and 99 percent cost less than $1,000, the company said.
Schrage noted that many of the ads were problematic not because of their actual content, but because they were bought by “inauthentic” accounts.
“Many of these ads did not violate our content policies. That means that for most of them, if they had been run by authentic individuals, anywhere, they could have remained on the platform.”
“We are continuing to refine our techniques for identifying the kinds of ads in question. We’re not going to disclose more details because we don’t want to give bad actors a roadmap for avoiding future detection.”
Facebook and Twitter were previously invited to testify before Congress about how foreign actors used social media to influence the election. An open hearing is scheduled for November 1st.
Russia-linked accounts reportedly also attempted to organize pro-Trump events on Facebook. Twitter has also said it found nearly 200 accounts linked to Russian.
Facebook’s latest revelations come less than a week after Mark Zuckerberg said that he “regrets” dismissing initial reports scrutinizing Facebook’s role in the election, though he maintained that Facebook did more good than harm in the same statement.