The Wall Street Journal reports: Facebook 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 information Facebook shared with Mr. Mueller included copies of the ads and details about the accounts that bought them and the targeting criteria they used, the people familiar with the matter said. Facebook policy dictates that it would only turn over “the stored contents of any account,” including messages and location information, in response to a search warrant, some of them said.
A search warrant from Mr. Mueller would mean the special counsel now has a powerful tool in his arsenal to probe the details of how social media was used as part of a campaign of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Facebook hasn’t shared the same information with Congress in part because of concerns about disrupting the Mueller probe, and possibly running afoul of U.S. privacy laws, people familiar with the matter said.
A Facebook spokesman said the company continues to investigate and is cooperating with U.S. authorities. A spokesman for Mr. Mueller declined to comment on the investigation.
Last week, Facebook disclosed that it identified about 500 “inauthentic” accounts with ties to Russia that bought $100,000 worth of ads during a two-year period encompassing the presidential campaign. The company also found $50,000 in ad purchases linked to Russian accounts. The combined funds purchased more than 5,000 ads on Facebook, the company said.
The disclosure was Facebook’s first acknowledgment that Russians used its platform to reach U.S. voters during the presidential campaign. It came about two months after Facebook said it had no evidence of Russian ad purchases. [Continue reading…]