In Early September, one of America’s largest social media scams was revealed. Disguised as Americans, Russian hackers bought United States advertisement space on Facebook to stir up political unrest. The ads contained content meant to divide Americans on causes regarding the election, gun laws, racism and immigration. The campaign included advertisements, Facebook groups, and pages.
It is speculated more than 10 million Facebook users in the United States saw over 3,000 ads. Forty-four percent of the ads were seen before the election, and 56 percent were seen after Donald Trump won the presidency. The Russian ads may have influenced American political stances by causing social division amongst citizens.
Among the states that these ad hacks affected, Michigan and Wisconsin were specifically targeted. These two states were crucial in deciding Trump’s victory, and Michigan saw the closest numbers between the republican and democratic sides in the entire country. Russia’s goal was to influence public opinion and target Michigan specifically knowing that there was heavy competition. The focus on Michigan and Wisconsin adds more evidence to the fact that Russia was attempting to cause ruckus within the presidential election.
Federal officials were able to link the campaign to a covert Russian tech company known as the Internet Research Agency. The company is also guilty of spreading propaganda and fake news stories via the Internet.
Facebook has not yet confirmed or denied any specific ad or group’s affiliation with the Russian hack, but did reveal that 470 pages and profiles are linked to the Agency. The social media giant is working with authorities as well as Google, who announced an investigation into whether or not their advertisement services were compromised.
The hack is also said to have spread to other social media channels and sites like Redditt, Instagram and 4Chan.
ACD’s CEO, Kevin Schoen stated in an interview about the topic, “It is pretty common that other entities are trying to influence American elections. Special interest groups are purchasing ads, and not being transparent on how and why they are funded.”
Facebook will now be taking extra precaution when approving the purchases of ad space, and they will be expecting complete transparency from buyers and their organizations.