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How Russia’s Election Meddling Became Facebook’s Problem

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Facebook Inc. finds itself at the red-hot center of the investigation into Russia’s clandestine involvement in the 2016 U.S. election. The social-media giant said it has so far found $100,000 in advertising spending linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm with ties to the Kremlin. The company turned over details on the ads to Congress and to Robert Mueller, who is leading the criminal investigation into Russia’s campaign meddling and possible links to President Donald Trump’s associates. Facebook and its chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, already had a problem with fake news. Now they’re trying to overhaul rules around political advertising before being ordered to do so.

You can’t, at least for now. Facebook, in its Sept. 6 announcement, said it had already "shut down the accounts and pages we identified that were still active." We do know there were more than 3,000 ads, bought by Facebook accounts and pages linked to fake people, created by a group linked to the Russian government. The ads aimed to stir political controversy and divisiveness ahead of the 2016 election around issues such as race relations, immigration and gun rights. Some of the ads were targeted at certain regions of the U.S., and some mentioned candidates by name. Mueller has copies of the ads and information on the buyers. Facebook handed similar information to Congress after public outcry.