Ads that Facebook believes were purchased by Russian operatives for $100,000 to target American voters have been turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is in charge of investigating suspected Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, Reuters reported.
Facebook told Congressional investigators Wednesday that it traced the ad sales to a Russian “troll farm” with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda, the Washington Post reported. In a blog post published Wednesday, Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, said most of the ads “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum.”
Roughly a quarter of the ads were “geographically targeted,” Stamos said, although Facebook officials would not disclose those locations.
The House Intelligence Committee investigating alleged Russian election interference will also look into the ads and whether “they were at a level of sophistication where [the ad buyers] would have needed help or assistance from the [Trump] campaign,” Democrat and ranking member of the committee Adam Schiff told CNN.
While U.S. intelligence agencies have determined that Russia interfered with the election on some level to help elect Trump, at the heart of the investigation is whether the Kremlin coordinated with the Trump campaign in an attempt to defeat Hillary Clinton.
The Facebook revelation that a Russian firm was able to purchase targeted political messages will likely lead investigators question whether the firm received help from anyone in the United States.
“This is a very significant set of data points produced by Facebook,” Schiff said. “Left unanswered in what we received from Facebook — because it is beyond the scope of what they are able to determine — is whether there was any coordination between these social media trolls and the campaign. We have to get to the bottom of that.”