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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Manu Fernadez / AP

More than half of the Facebook's users in the United States were exposed to Russian attempts to sow discord before and after the 2016 presidential election, a company executive will tell lawmakers Tuesday, while arguing that the reach of the campaign was still limited given the platform's massive scale. Google and Twitter will also disclose that the Russian influence campaign stretched beyond what they've previously discussed publicly.

Why it matters: It demonstrates how Facebook's mechanics allowed the Russian operatives to reach far beyond just those people who followed their fake pages and account. Significantly, for lawmakers, it underscores that the roughly 3,000 ads that Facebook disclosed in September from the Russian pages were just one small piece of the puzzle.

According to written testimony obtained by Axios, Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch will tell three congressional committees over the next two days that the company's "best estimate is that approximately 126 million people may have been served one" of the stories posted by roughly 470 Russian pages between June, 2015 and August, 2017. Facebook has 213 million monthly active users in the United States.

How it worked: Around 29 million users were exposed to content from the Russian pages directly, the company said. That amounted to approximately 80,000 pieces of content in the two-year period the company examined. That content was then shared, magnifying the reach of the pages broadly.

Decoded: When Facebook says content was "served" to users, it means that content appeared in their feeds, not that the users engaged with the content or even saw it for a meaningful amount of time. Ad buyers generally believe you have to see a message multiple times for it to have an effect on you.

Yes, but: Stretch will argue that the reach of the Russian campaign was a relative drop in the bucket compared to the large amount of content posted to Facebook during that period. "Put another way, if each of these posts were a commercial on television, you'd have to watch more than 600 hours of television to see something from the IRA," he'll say, adding, "Though the volume of these stories was a tiny fraction of the overall content on Facebook, any amount is too much."

Facebook is not the only one of the three companies testifying tomorrow that will acknowledge that the scale of Russian election meddling efforts were broader than they previously disclosed. The Washington Post reports that Google has said for the first time that over a thousand videos were uploaded to YouTube by Russian trolls on 18 separate channels.

  • Twitter will tell lawmakers that it has discovered thousands of previously-undisclosed accounts tied to the Russian troll farm behind the Facebook campaign, according to a sources familiar with its testimony.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Sports

Unvaccinated athletes face 21-day quarantine at Beijing Olympics

Logos for the 2022 Winter Olympics at Yanqing Ice Festival in February 2021 in Beijing. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Athletes, staff members and journalists at the 2022 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus will be required to quarantine for three weeks, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) outlined in its newly-published "playbooks."

Why it matters: The quarantine period is longer than the Games themselves, meaning vaccinations or an earlier arrival date will be required to participate in or cover the Games.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

FTX CEO predicts more U.S. crypto flight

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

FTX doesn't look much like a company valued at $25 billion. Its new headquarters, located in a sleepy part of The Bahamas, is so nondescript as to not even have a sign. But it does expect to soon have neighbors.

Driving the news: Founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried tells "Axios on HBO" to expect "more and more crypto flight from the states" if the U.S. doesn't soon create a regulatory regime for cryptocurrencies.

Developed countries reveal $100 billion climate finance plan ahead of COP26

Alok Sharma, head of the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, speaks in Paris on Oct. 12. ( Li Yang/China News Service via Getty Images)

After 12 years of fits and starts, industrialized nations on Monday put forward a detailed plan to provide at least $100 billion annually in climate aid to developing countries starting by 2023.

Why it matters: The plan, presented by representatives of Canada and Germany, is aimed at defusing one of the biggest sources of tension at COP26, which is the failure of industrialized nations to follow through on their financial commitments.