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Mueller Indicts 13 Russians Linked to Facebook & Twitter Ads

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Special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups for interfering with the 2016 U.S. elections, the Justice Department announced on Friday. These parties are all associated with a Russia-based troll farm that advertised on Facebook FB and infiltrated Twitter (TWTR - Free Report) with fake accounts.

Mueller’s charges allege that the indicted Russians stole the identities of American citizens, posed as American citizens, and create false U.S. personas. The indictment also alleges that the goal of indicted parties was to support now-President Trump and hurt Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“Defendants' operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump ("Trump campaign") and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” the indictment says. “Defendants made various expenditures to carry out those activities, including buying political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities.”

The indicted parties are linked to the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, a troll farm that purchased $100,000 in political advertisements on Facebook during the 2016 campaign cycle. Facebook representatives testified in Congress that ads were designed to sow division among U.S. citizens and reached up to 126 million American users.

Meanwhile, Twitter said that is uncovered about 3,800 fake accounts and 50,000 bots associated with the Internet Research Agency.

Shares of Twitter and Facebook were down through morning trading Friday and slipped further into the red as reports of the indictment emerged in the early afternoon.

In a late-2017 earnings release, Facebook acknowledged that its platform was being used to spread manipulative content and pledged to spend more money to curb this trend.

“We're doing a lot here with investments both in people and technology. Some of this is focused on finding bad actors and bad behavior. Some is focused on removing false news, hate speech, bullying, and other problematic content that we don't want in our community,” Zuckerberg said. “We already have about 10,000 people working on safety and security, and we're planning to double that to 20,000 in the next year to better enforce our Community Standards and review ads.”

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