They conquered … the election. (Maybe.)
Turns out that as many as 126 million Americans, accounting for a third of the nation’s population, were exposed to content placed on Facebook by Russian sources during the 2016 elections.
That number comes from testimony the social media giant was scheduled to give to the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday (Oct. 31), as reported by NBC News.
NBC reported on the testimony, slated to be given by Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch, on Monday night – a day before it was to be spotlighted at a hearing, which was also scheduled to include executives from Twitter and Google.
The numbers, according to the testimony, shake out as follows: Roughly 29 million Americans received content via 80,000 posts that were generated from 120 pages, which were backed by Russian entities. And, said Facebook, as many as three times that 29 million could have been privy to those posts via the ubiquitous “sharing” and “liking” functions used on Facebook.
The dates of the posts launched from Russian Facebook accounts range from January 2015 to August 2017, and Stretch said via the testimony that “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,” and went on to state that “this equals about four-thousandths of one percent (0.004%) of content in News Feed, or approximately one out of 23,000 pieces of content.”
The testimony also noted that Facebook policies were violated, as the posts came from “coordinated, inauthentic accounts.”
PYMNTS’ own Karen Webster noted Monday morning – before the Stretch testimony was leaked Monday evening – that Facebook is grappling with an election tampering scheme that had a five-year gestation period.
Refuting the notion that the posts, and the sheer volume of them, would have swayed the election results, Dave Karpf, a professor of media and technology at The George Washington University, told NBC that “it is a problem in that this is evidence that foreign nationals actively attempted to impact our election, and they did manage to reach 126 million with messages.
"It’s going to be important for Facebook and Google and Twitter to get a handle on this stuff before the next election, hopefully with the help from our regulators," said Karpf. "But what we should avoid is thinking, ‘Wow, 126 million people were duped into voting for Trump.’”