Facebook Turns Over Details of Russian Campaign Ads to Mueller

A filepic of Mueller at the US Capitol in Washington DC. Facebook provided copies of ads and explained how they were targeted and who bought them said a source. — AFP

Facebook's policy states that, in accordance with the federal Stored Communications Act, it can only turn over the stored contents of an account in response to a search warrant.

CNN confirmed on Saturday that Mueller had indeed obtained the information with the help of a warrant.

Facebook, the world's largest social network, said last week that an operation likely based in Russian Federation had placed thousands of USA ads with polarizing views on topics such as immigration, race and gay rights on the site during a two-year period through May 2017.

The information provided to Mueller's investigators include "copies of the ads and details about the accounts that bought them and the targeting criteria they used", the Journal reported.

Facebook did not give the same information to Congress because it didn't want to disrupt Mueller's investigation or violate USA privacy laws, according to the report. The propaganda was traced back to almost 500 inauthentic accounts and pages, the company said. During the talks with Congress, the tech company deviated from talking specifically about the ad buys. The Senate Intelligence Committee is likely to ask Facebook representatives to testify publicly in the coming weeks, but even if it subpoenas Facebook, it is not likely to gain access to the information Mueller now has at his fingertips.

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Rangappa said, "The key here, though, is that Mueller clearly already has enough information on these accounts - and their link to a potential crime to justify forcing (Facebook) to give up the info". The ads were targeted at American Facebook users and covered issues like gun rights and immigration.

A new wrinkle has appeared in the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election-and the outcome might boil down to fake Facebook accounts. Evidence has come to light in recent months that people connected to the Russian government used social networks and other media in various ways in attempts to sway public opinion in favor of the Republican candidate, Donald J. Trump, over the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

A Facebook spokesman told the newspaper that the company was continuing its probe and was cooperating with federal authorities.

Russian Federation has denied any involvement in the election - and President Donald Trump slammed the Mueller probe as a "witch hunt".

"We know we have to stay vigilant to keep ahead of people who try to misuse our platform", said Stamos.

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