San Francisco, Oct 3: An estimated 10 million people in the US saw the Russian ads that were present on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election, the social media giant said while finally handing over nearly 3,000 Russian political ads worth $100,000 to the US Congress.
Facebook said that 44 per cent of total ad impressions (number of times ads were displayed) were before the election on November 8, 2016, while 56 per cent were shown after the election.
"Roughly 25 per cent of the ads were never shown to anyone," Elliot Schrage, Vice President of Policy and Communications at Facebook wrote in a blog on Monday.
This, Schrage wrote, is due to the fact that most of the ads appear to focus on divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum, touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.
"For 50 per cent of the ads, less than $3 was spent; for 99 per cent of the ads, less than $1,000 was spent," the executive said.
Facebook said that some of the ads were paid for in Russian currency and "currency alone isn't a good way of identifying suspicious activity, because the overwhelming majority of advertisers who pay in Russian currency, like the overwhelming majority of people who access Facebook from Russia, aren't doing anything wrong".
Schrage wrote that it is possible that Facebook might find more than that they have found.
"We're still looking for abuse and bad actors on our platform - our internal investigation continues. We hope that by cooperating with Congress, the Special Counsel and our industry partners, we will help keep bad actors off our platform."
The company said it was continuing to refine their techniques for identifying the ads in question but would not disclose more details because they do not want to give bad actors a roadmap for avoiding future detection.
In order to do better at catching abuse on the platform, Facebook also announced a number of improvements, including making advertising more transparent, strengthening enforcement against improper ads and tightening restrictions on advertiser content.
Facebook would also increase requirements for authenticity and establish industry standards and best practices.