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Divisive ads reached 10 million people before and after US presidential elections, says Facebook

The company submitted more than 3,000 advertisements, that were paid for by a Russian agency, to the United States Congress on Monday.

An estimated 10 million people in the United States saw political, divisive advertisements on Facebook before and after the 2016 presidential elections, the company announced on Monday.

More than 3,000 such advertisements, paid for by a Russian entity known as Internet Research Agency, were submitted to United States Congressmen who are examining Moscow’s interference in the election, Facebook added.

“Most of the ads appear to focus on divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum, touching on topics from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights,” said Facebook’s Vice President of Policy and Communications Elliot Schrage.

Schrage added that 44% of the advertisements were seen before the November 8, 2016, election and 56% were seen after. “For 50% of the ads, less than $3 was spent; for 99% of the ads, less than $1,000 was spent,” he added.

Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s Vice President for Global Public Policy, said that the company was building new tools to allow users to see all the advertisements that a Facebook page is running, including those that do not necessarily target the user.

Facebook, along with Twitter and Google, was asked to testify before the US Senate Intelligence Committee in the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the US election. An internal review had found that Russia-based advertisers had spent more than Rs 17 lakh on 3,000 Facebook ads.

On September 29, Twitter had said that a Russian state-funded media organisation had placed over 1,800 advertisements in 2016 in the run-up to the presidential election, by spending more than Rs 1.5 crore.

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