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Nam Y. Huh / AP

Facebook has told authorities investigating Russia's influence on the 2016 election about thousands of ads likely linked to Russia, many of which were connected to "inauthentic" accounts and Pages and focused on drawing attention to divisive social issues.

Why it matters: Congressional investigators — particularly Senate Intel Committee Vice Chair Mark Warner — have raised concerns about the possibility that Facebook's ad targeting tools could have been used to boost the spread of so-called "fake news" with the intention of influencing the election. That's raised questions about whether the Trump campaign could have worked with Russian actors to target that content.

This marks a shift for Facebook: Back in July, a company spokesperson told CNN said, "we have seen no evidence that Russian actors bought ads on Facebook in connection with the election." Importantly, the company isn't claiming to have uncovered any Russian government involvement with the accounts.

By the numbers:

  • Facebook found around 3,000 ads (costing roughly $100,000) that ran between June 2015 and May 2017 and were linked to more than 450 fake pages and accounts. "Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia," said Alex Stamos, the company's Chief Security Officer, in a blog post.
  • Another search looked for ads with links to Russia and included "those with very weak signals of a connection and not associated with any known organized effort." That yielded around $50,000 "in potentially politically related ad spending on roughly 2,200 ads," Stamos said.
  • This roughly $150,000 is a very small fraction of total digital ad spending in the campaign season.

Ad content: "The vast majority of ads run by [the fake] accounts didn't specifically reference the US presidential election, voting, or a particular candidate," Stamos said. "Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights."

What's next: The social giant says it intends to do more to combat the activities covered in its review. "For example, we are looking at how we can apply the techniques we developed for detecting fake accounts to better detect inauthentic Pages and the ads they may run," Stamos said.

Go deeper

Rep. Rice demands Cuomo resign after third woman accuses him of misconduct

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February news conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) on Monday evening called for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign, after a third woman accused him of inappropriate behavior.

Driving the news: Anna Ruch told the New York Times Monday that Cuomo asked to kiss her at a New York City wedding reception in September 2019.

Scoop: Inside the GOP's plan to retake the House

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Republicans will reclaim their majority in 2022 by offering candidates who are women, minorities or veterans, a memo obtained by Axios says.

Why it matters: The document, drafted by a super PAC blessed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, names top Democrats to target — Jared Golden of Maine, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Ron Kind of Wisconsin — and the type of Republican candidates to beat them.

59 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump talked out of early Ohio endorsement

Jane Timken at a 2017 Trump rally. Photo: Kyle Mazza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Donald Trump had to be talked out of making an early endorsement in Ohio's 2022 U.S. Senate race, a sign of his eagerness to reengage politically, people familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

What we're hearing: The former president discussed endorsing former state GOP chair Jane Timken last week during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago with RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, but top advisers — including Donald Trump Jr. — urged him to wait.