Russian trolls reached 126 million Americans via Facebook—almost the population of Russia



Image: Thibault Camus/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Facebook accounts linked to Russia had a far greater reach than what was previously known, reaching nearly half the U.S. population.

Russia-linked Facebook accounts reached as many as 126 million users, according to prepared testimony from General Counsel Colin Stretch. 

In prepared remarks, Stretch, said the company’s “best guess” was that as many as 126 million people saw posts linked to Russia-backed accounts, though he attempted to downplay the significance of that number saying that it represented only a fraction of all NewsFeed posts.

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. This equals about four-thousandths of one percent (0.004%) of content in News Feed, or approximately 1 out of 23,000 pieces of content.

The social network previously said Russia-bought ads reached about 10 million users. But it’s now clear that “organic posts” linked to these accounts—that is non-paid posts published to individual accounts and pages—were even more influential than the ads Facebook had previously come under fire for. 

“Many of the ads and posts we’ve seen so far are deeply disturbing — seemingly intended to amplify societal divisions and pit groups of people against each other. They would be controversial even if they came from authentic accounts in the United States. But coming from foreign actors using fake accounts they are simply unacceptable. “

Stretch also revealed for the first time the extent that Russian groups used its photo-sharing service Instagram. Instagram deleted “roughly 170 accounts” that were responsible for at least 120,000 posts on the app.

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