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Facebook found fake accounts leaking stolen info to sway presidential election

  • Facebook says some groups tried to use its platform to sway the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.
  • The company did not specify who the targets were or who was behind the attacks. However, it said its own findings do "not contradict" the U.S. Director of National Intelligence report on Jan. 6.
Mark Zuckerberg
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook says some groups tried to use its platform to sway the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

In a case study of the 2016 presidential election, the company said it found several instances of "information operations," its term for governments and organizations who attempt to sway political opinion by spreading fake news and other nefarious tactics.

The case study was included in Facebook's white paper on "information operations." It also detailed ways it was combating "fake news" and other misinformation spread by adding new technologies and creating more security features.

The company did not specify who the targets were or who was behind the attacks. However, it said its own findings do "not contradict" the U.S. Director of National Intelligence report on Jan. 6. The report was on Russian efforts to influence the election, and claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind a campaign to get his "clear preference," Donald Trump into the White House.

Although it said it saw no evidence that accounts were hacked during the election, Facebook said it saw malicious accounts making people aware of stolen information from sources like email accounts, with the intent the data could be used to tarnish specific political figures. It also detected fake accounts created to share this private information, as well as pages to further propagate news accounts sharing the stolen content. Because of the boost in attention, other real accounts began to share the private information as well, Facebook said.

Facebook also acknowledged it saw groups using fake accounts to share false information, but said the effects of these efforts were "marginal." NBC News and other publications reported how users in other countries earned money during the presidential election season by writing fake news meant to appeal to Trump supporters, posting links to that content Facebook and collecting money from advertisements that appeared on the sites.

Overall, Facebook does not think any of these efforts had much effect on the outcome of the election, writing, "while we acknowledge the ongoing challenge of monitoring and guarding against information operations, the reach of known operations during the US election of 2016 was statistically very small compared to overall engagement on political issues."

Watch: US officials say Putin directed election hack