Top Intel Dem says new Facebook finding 'further evidence' of Russian meddling

Top Intel Dem says new Facebook finding 'further evidence' of Russian meddling
© Greg Nash

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that Facebook’s discovery of a new political influence campaign is “further evidence” that Russia is exploiting social media platforms to spread divisive and misleading content in the U.S. 

“Today’s disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation,” Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Biden holds meetings to resurrect his spending plan Democrats feel high anxiety in Biden spending conflict Biden meets with Jayapal to kick off week of pivotal meetings MORE (D-Va.) said in a statement. 

Earlier Tuesday, Facebook disclosed that it found evidence of a coordinated influence campaign involving dozens of fake accounts and pages on its platform. The company has not definitively tied the accounts to Russia but believes Moscow may be involved, according to The New York Times, which first reported on the development.

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The company has removed 32 pages and accounts across both Facebook and Instagram as a result of the discovery, and it briefed Congress on the developments this week. Warner said he is “glad that Facebook is taking some steps to pinpoint and address this activity.”

Still, Warner, who has been pushing for legislation to boost transparency of online political advertisements, said he expects Facebook and other social media companies to “continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress on updating our laws to better protect our democracy in the future.”  

Facebook made the discovery as a result of its ongoing investigation into election interference, following Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 vote. Last year, Facebook discovered that a Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency had purchased $100,000 worth of political ads as part of the broader effort to interfere in the election. 

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE has indicted on fraud charges 13 Russians and three Russian entities linked to Internet Research Agency as part of his ongoing probe into 2016 election interference.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is currently in the final stages of its own investigation into Moscow's meddling in the election. On Wednesday, the committee will hold a public hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media platforms, which will feature testimony from experts. 

On Tuesday, Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrDemocratic incumbents bolster fundraising advantage in key Senate races McConnell gets GOP wake-up call Senate approves short-term debt ceiling increase MORE (R-N.C.), the committee chairman, told The Hill that his staff had been briefed on Facebook's findings. 

“I’m not sure that this will be the last finding that they come with,” Burr said.