The posts were planted by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency during the period from January 2015 to August 2017, Facebook’s general counsel will tell Senators. | Matt Rourke/AP Photo
Facebook has identified 80,000 Russia-linked posts on its platform that sought to interfere in the 2016 election and were viewed by up to 126 million people, the company’s general counsel will tell a Senate panel Tuesday.
The so-called organic posts were planted by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency during the period from January 2015 to August 2017, Colin Stretch will say, according to a copy of his written testimony obtained by POLITICO.
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The new information represents a much broader picture of Russian activity on the social network that has previously been disclosed. Facebook previously shared with congressional investigators 3,000 online political ads linked to the same Internet Research Agency. Stretch will tell lawmakers Tuesday those ads were seen by an estimated 11.4 million people. That makes the potential audience for organic posts more than ten times that of the ads that have been at the center of public debate so far.
“Though the volume of these stories was a tiny fraction of the overall content on Facebook, any amount is too much,” Stretch will tell the senators.
“Many of the ads and posts we’ve seen so far are deeply disturbing — seemingly intended to amplify societal divisions and pit groups of people against each other,” he goes on. “They would be controversial even if they came from authentic accounts in the United States. But coming from foreign actors using fake accounts, they are simply unacceptable.”
Stretch will say that the 126 million people potentially exposed to the posts is an outermost limit of their impact, given that Facebook users often skip over posts in their feeds.
The general counsel will also testify that Facebook established a conclusive link between APT 28 — a hacking group also known as “Fancy Bear” that has been connected to Russian military intelligence — and the website DC Leaks, a self-proclaimed activist site that researchers have said is a Russian front for posting stolen emails from U.S. political targets.
Facebook has been keeping a calendar of upcoming elections around the world and is using “internal and external resources to best predict the threat level to each,” Stretch will say.