Special Counsel Mueller Is Investigating Facebook Ads Linked To Russia

Special Counsel Mueller Is Investigating Facebook Ads Linked To Russia

Facebook has turned over to US special counsel Robert Mueller detailed records about the Russian ad purchases on its platform that go further than what it shared with Congress last week, according a report published September 15 on The Wall Street Journal's website. In a tweetstorm, Yale Law School associate dean Asha Rangappa said that to obtain the warrant, Mueller would have had to believe that a crime was committed - it is illegal for foreign people or entities to make contributions connected to American elections - and that the offense would need to be connected to "specific accounts" on Facebook.

The information Facebook gave to Mueller included copies of the ads and information about how the inauthentic accounts bought them and how they targeted the propaganda, according to the Journal, which first reported the disclosure. The records given to Mueller provide much more details than what the social media platform said last week to Congress.

Facebook policy normally requires the company to disclose "the stored contents of any account", including messages and location information in a search warrant request, according to the report.

Facebook did not give the same information to Congress because it didn't want to disrupt Mueller's investigation or violate US privacy laws, according to the report.

Trump Administration Reportedly Will Not Withdraw US From Paris Agreement After All
The Wall Street Journal also reported that President Trump was not planning to pull out of the deal. But the White House promptly issued a denial.

Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN last week that Facebook had not turned over the ads to Congress. Warner has also called Facebook's review "the tip of the iceberg", and suggested that more work needs to be done in order to ascertain the full scope of Russia's use of social media. The propaganda was traced back to almost 500 inauthentic accounts and pages, the company said. Facebook said approximately one-quarter of the ads were geographically targeted and ran mostly in 2015 rather than 2016.

"This is big news", said former Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence agent Asha Rangappa, "and potentially bad news for the Russian election interference 'deniers'". The fact that Mueller obtained a warrant means he's already made a strong case for Russia's meddling with the election.

Some were circulated before the election and mentioned candidates Clinton and Trump by name.

Facebook said it is cooperating with investigators and declined to comment further.

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