Russian government-connected Internet Research Agency runs extensive social media influence campaign involving targeted advertisements
On September 6, 2017, Facebook announced that the Russian government-connected Internet Research Agency (IRA) operated around 470 accounts and spent $100,000 on advertising on the site in the lead up to the 2016 election, reaching as many as 126 million Americans. Over the next few weeks, Facebook received substantial public, media, and governmental criticism over its perceived lack of transparency regarding the manipulation of its platform, culminating in the release of over 3,000 Russian-linked ads to Congress. While some ads were targeted to support specific candidates, including Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Jill Stein, other ads focused on specific hot-button issues such as immigration and racism. The IRA also used falsified American accounts to purchase at least $6,000 worth of ads on Instagram, including ads promoting Jill Stein and “Florida Goes Trump” rallies. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the IRA is “a Russian organization engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes.” Evgeniy Prigozhin, “a Russian oligarch who is closely identified with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” provides funding and support for the IRA.