Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating Facebook ads bought by bogus Russian-linked accounts.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained a search warrant for Facebook accounts associated with Russian operatives responsible for their attempts to undermine the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller’s probe into Russian influence is a key turning point into the direction taken in the investigation, specifically the range and scope of inquiry and the legal strategy of the key players in the special counsel’s inner circle.
As the special counsel gathers proof of Russian meddling into the 2016—amid the search warrant—Facebook turned over information about Russian advertising purchases to special counsel Robert Mueller’s office to include documentation from centered on advertising purchases on the social media network with ties to Russia.
Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence and possible connections to the Trump campaign cites the propagation of fake information on social media. Two weeks ago, Facebook confirmed that an internal investigation found $100,000 in ad spending by fake accounts and pages, likely operated out of Russia, which aimed to affect political division during the election.
“We are providing information to (the) Special Counsel, including ads and related account information,” Facebook said in a statement to USA Today.
Before news of the Facebook search warrant, Mueller appeared to center inquiry on discrete areas of inquiry, such as potentially false disclosures by former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, alleged obstruction of justice and potential tax charges related to President Donald Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
Amid the most recent news from Facebook, the trajectory of the investigation has shifted, specifically with the possibility that the Mueller investigation, could result in charges against Americans colluding with Russians and their operatives to commit a crime. Recent reports in The Wall Street Journal and CNN about the Facebook search warrant and the significance of that development cannot be overstated.
The latest developments could mean special counsel Mueller presented sufficient evidence to a federal magistrate judge—who concluded “there was a good reason” to believe that foreign individuals committed a crime— in connection with the election and that evidence of such a crime existed on Facebook.
According to according to a blog post published late Wednesday by Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, the ads “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.”
Some ads ran between June 2015 and May 2017 but did not specifically mention the election, however, a small number of the ads named and then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.
The ads traced to a Russian “troll farm,” with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda, could cause considerable legal implications for any American purchasing ads with a foreign entity.
To help counter future disinformation campaigns—Reuters reported on last week that Facebook would begin tightening controls over who can advertise on its platform.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Sunday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos that Facebook, Twitter, and Google should come and testify before Congress on the issue. “There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Schiff said.
Every patriotic American should be furious the Kremlin so cynically sought to divide & manipulate us on Facebook. Tech firms should testify: pic.twitter.com/FXrYkMKhlg
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) September 17, 2017
The acknowledgment by Facebook comes as special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators are probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, including allegations that the Kremlin may have colluded with the Trump campaign.
By LeNora Millen 09-18-17