Speed Reads

Russian Trolls

Facebook now estimates that Russian trolls reached more than half of U.S. users during 2016 election

Facebook will tell Congress this week that its current "best estimate is that approximately 126 million people may have been served" at least one story posted by the Kremlin-linked troll farm the Internet Research Agency (IRA) between June 2015 and August 2017, according to copies of the prepared testimony of Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch obtained by CNNMoney and Axios. Facebook has 213 million monthly active users in the U.S., so that would suggest Russian ads hit more than half of U.S. Facebook users during the 2016 election.

Facebook says those posts were "a tiny fraction of the overall content on Facebook," but as CNN's Dylan Byers points out, it's also a big uptick from Facebook's earlier estimates.

Stretch says the IRA served content directly to 29 million users, but those users shared it, broadening its reach to 126 million. Similarly, an estimated 11.4 million people saw ads purchased by the IRA. Stretch says the Russian ads are "deeply disturbing," and "seemingly intended to amplify societal divisions and pit groups of people against each other." Facebook says it does not know how many of the 126 million people actually saw the Russian content they were served.

Twitter and Google will also testify that the Russian trolls used social media to reach more of the electorate than previously acknowledged. Google will say that it has evidence that Russian operatives uploaded at least 1,108 videos to YouTube with 43 hours of content, and paid at least $4,700 for search and display ads, The Washington Post reports. Twitter will acknowledge that 2,752 accounts controlled by Russian operatives, not just the IRA, and 36,000 Russian bots tweeted 1.4 million election-related tweets, reaching 288 million Twitter users.