A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the social media portion of Russia’s 2016 election interference opened Tuesday with portentous statements from Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the latter of whom rattled off some numbers that gave the fullest picture yet of the extent of the disinformation campaign.
“Facebook has identified 470 accounts tied to the Internet Research Agency,” Feinstein said, referring to a Russian troll farm. “Twitter has identified 2,752 IRA-related accounts and almost 37,000 Russian linked accounts that generated automated election content. From what we’ve seen so far, Russian backed trolls used fake accounts on Facebook for more than 3,000 paid advertisements.”
Reports out Monday said Facebook would tell lawmakers that those advertisements reached approximately 126 million people.
The Twitter revelations, however, are far more significant: The platform appears to have identified not just the accounts run directly by Russian trolls working for the IRA (now the Federal News Agency, or FAN), but 37,000 automated accounts that generated information that would promote Russian interests in the American election.
Twitter and Facebook representatives opened their statements with apologies and began to detail how they planned to review previous posts and change rules to thwart future disinformation campaigns.