Wyden accuses Putin of seeking to exploit US divisions after Facebook revelations

Wyden accuses Putin of seeking to exploit US divisions after Facebook revelations
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for government discrimination Lawmakers rally around cyber legislation following string of attacks Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision MORE (D-Ore.) on Tuesday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of seeking to exploit social divisions in the United States.

“Vladimir Putin is apparently determined to hijack Americans’ outrage against Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE and his administration for his own purposes: weakening America and ensuring that his corrupt dictatorship can act with impunity around the world," Wyden said in a statement.


His comments came after Facebook announced that it has discovered evidence of a coordinated political influence campaign using dozens of fake accounts and pages on its platform. 

The social media company did not directly blame Russia. It did suggest Moscow could've been behind this latest activity and is working to confirm who was responsible.

Despite this, Wyden — a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee — appeared to pin the blame directly on the Kremlin. He said the news of the recent Facebook influence campaign is nearly identical to the tactics Russia used to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

"In 2016, the Russian social media campaign pretended to be appealing to the left in order to suppress the vote and get Trump elected. These ads appear to come from the exact same playbook," Wyden's statement adds.

Facebook, which is working with law enforcement on the matter, said it has removed 32 pages and accounts across Facebook and Instagram for exhibiting "inauthentic behavior." 

The social media company briefed lawmakers this week about its discovery, which it made as it was looking for signs of election interference activity, The New York Times first reported.

"Americans need to stay active and involved and above all else, vote. Don’t let Russia or anyone else divide us in order to prop up Trump," Wyden's statement concludes.

Other Democrats have also quickly accused Russia of being behind the activity.

The news comes amid already heightened fears Russia or other foreign actors will seek to interfere in U.S. affairs as well as future elections — especially with the 2018 midterms only a few months away. 

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 is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election broadly, as well as any potential ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.