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 WydenHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Lawmakers call for FTC probe into top financial data aggregator Overnight Health Care: Progressives raise red flags over health insurer donations | Republican FTC commish backs Medicare negotiating drug prices | Trump moves to protect money for religious groups 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 John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' 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.

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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) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election broadly, as well as any potential ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.