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Report: Facebook gave special investigator Robert Mueller detailed info on Russian ad buys

Report: Facebook gave special investigator Robert Mueller detailed info on Russian ad buys
From TechCrunch - September 15, 2017

An official for Facebook told TechCrunch that the company is continuing to cooperate with the relevant U.S. authorities, as investigations into the Russian hack of last years presidential election continue to expand. In the latest development, authorities are now investigating how agents used online advertising on social networks and search platforms, and tech companies are being forced to hand over new, sensitive information to investigators as a result.

In some cases, that means providing different information to different investigations, asThe Wall Street Journalis reporting today.

Facebook has apparently turned over more detailed information to the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, than the company shared with Congress last week, the Journal reports.

Muellers investigation has received copies of the Russian-bought ads and details about the specific account information and targeting criteria the buyers used to distribute their ads, according to the Journal, citing people familiar with the matter.

Its likely that Facebook was compelled to turn over the information because the investigating team received a search warrant.

If indeed, Mueller is using warrants, then its likely that Facebook wont be the only tech company that may be forced to reveal information about potential clandestine advertising buys, which Russian agents are alleged to have made in order to influence the U.S. election.

The Journal reports that Muellers team could have gotten information that Facebook withheld from Congress because of concerns around privacy laws or fears of disrupting the Mueller probe. My guess is that Facebook is likely also thinking that the Mueller investigation is a tighter ship and less likely to leak details of the ads whereas Congressional staffers could leak like sieves.

Its clear that Facebook has no interest in revealing details of the ad buys, or telling individuals whether they were targets of what amounts to a Russian plot to influence the U.S. election.

Its something members of the tech community have taken Facebook to task for already.

Weve reached out to the Office of the Special Counsel and for comment and will update if we hear back.

Last week Facebook revealed that it had sold as much as $150,000 in political ads to pro-Kremlin entities between 2015 and 2017.

It was part of a broader report that indicated 500 inauthentic accounts linked to Russia had purchased 5,000 ads from the company. The developments today relate to that same trove but are a sign of yet more data now being handed over to authorities.

Last Wednesday, as the company released its assessment, Facebook representatives also spoke to Congress as part of ongoing House and Senate investigations into Russian interference in the election. Facebook even toldThe Washington Post, there is evidence that some of the accounts are linked to a troll farm in St. Petersburg, referred to as the Internet Research Agency, though we have no way to independently confirm.

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