Facebook hands over Russian ad details to Mueller

Monday, 18 Sep, 2017

The Senate Intelligence Committee also hasn't ruled out subpoenaing Facebook officials to publicly testify about how Russian Federation may have used the social media platform to influence the 2016 election, a person familiar with the investigation told the Journal.

Facebook Inc. has handed over to special counsel Robert Mueller detailed records about the Russian ad purchases on its platform that go beyond what it shared with Congress last week, according to people familiar with the matter. The ads, which were linked to a "Russian troll farm", targeted American Facebook users, and thus more information about them could drastically affect Mueller's decision on whether Moscow collaborated with President Donald Trump's campaign team. The company's policy is to only provide information to the government if there is a valid court order, subpoena or search warrant.

It also means that Mueller is no longer looking at Russia's election interference from a strict counterintelligence standpoint - rather, he now believes he may be able to obtain enough evidence to charge specific foreign entities with a crime. "That means that he has uncovered a great deal of evidence through other avenues of Russian election interference".

According to former federal prosecutor and now a partner at Thompson Coburn LLP, Renato Mariotti, the revelation about Mueller obtaining a search warrant for Facebook content "may be the biggest news in the case since the Manafort raid".

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Mariotti believes this indicates that Mueller is "closing in on charging foreign individuals in connection with that, which is much more like the sort of thing I think lot of people speculated could come from the Mueller investigation, but frankly we hadn't seen up until now". USA intelligence officials say the Kremlin directed online propaganda and hacking efforts meant to help Donald Trump take the victory.

The implications for Trump campaign staffers are not good, given that the targeted ads bought by foreign interests were geographically targeted to very specific regions where polling showed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was vulnerable. That's aiding and abetting.

Sen. Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who co-chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last week that Twitter officials would soon talk with congressional investigators about Russian activity on its platform, the Journal reported.

It been reported that a Russian company paid Facebook $100,000 to place political ads.