A staggering 126,000,000 people may have seen Russian government-backed Facebook posts supporting Trump in 2016 US residential election.
Facebook has revealed that as many as 126 million American users may have seen content uploaded by Russia-based governmental operatives over the past two years.
Facebook released the figures ahead of a Senate hearing where it, together with Twitter and Google, will attempt to quantify the details that Russia’s impact has had on the popular sites, including its influence on the US 2016 Presidential elections.
The discovery of Russian interference has, according to Facebook lawyer Colin Stretch and his upcoming testimony, “opened a new battleground for our company, our industry and our society”.
Facebook representatives are expected to state that it believes 120 fake Russian-backed pages created 80,000 posts that were viewed by 29 million Americans directly – but through Likes, Post Sharing, and Following – may reached a far greater audience share than was originally thought.
The revelations will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed this story or the 2016 race for the US Presidency, but the tech giant’s disclosures have also come in the same week that the investigation into Russian interference in the election by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has resulted in the three indictments of people who were considered to the close to Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign.
Facebook lawyer, Stretch, is expected to explain at the Senate hearings, that Russia’s Internet Research Agency posted its material over the crucial two-year period between 2015 and 2017 to exert maximum influence over US voters. The posts spread widely, although, Stretch will claim, just exactly how many of those 126 million people who may have seen the material is uncertain.
“Our best estimate is that approximately 126 million people may have been served one of their stories at some point during the two-year period. This equals about four-thousandths of 1% (0.004%) of content in news feed, or approximately one out of 23,000 pieces of content,” Stretch said in his written testimony.
For its part, Russia has repeatedly denied allegations that it attempted to influence the last US presidential election, in which Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. Its foreign Minister shrugged off the allegation at the weekend calling them ‘fantasies’.
Both Google and Twitter are also due to testify in front of Congress this week. Both tech companies are also expected to claim that they have discovered adverts, YouTube channels and Twitter accounts directly linked to Kremlin disinformation groups or other Russian sponsored organizations.
President Trump has dismissed allegations of collusion with Moscow, and has repeatedly called on Mrs Clinton to be investigated instead.