Top senator says there are likely ‘a lot more’ fake Facebook accounts tied to Russia

Mark WarnerSenate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

There are likely “a lot more” fake Facebook accounts affiliated with Russia than what the company has so far disclosed, the vice chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, said on Wednesday.

Warner, who is helping lead the committee’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the 470 fake accounts Facebook identified as having ties to Russia “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

He pointed to Facebook’s removal of 30,000 fake accounts ahead of France’s presidential election earlier this year as evidence that there were likely more than only 470 fake accounts used by Russia during the US election last year.

“To me that just doesn’t pass the smell test in terms of that number of accounts affiliated with Russia,” he said. “I think there’s a lot more.”

Facebook disclosed earlier this month that $100,000 worth of ads were purchased on its platform by Russian-affiliated accounts during the months surrounding the US presidential election. The revelation has prompted investigators to call on Facebook and Twitter to testify in a public hearing on Russia’s use of social media to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Warner said that the number of “dummy” accounts affiliated with Russia was “more significant” than the purchased ads because the accounts were used to “drive” the sharing of fake news stories and even organize real-world rallies opposing Hillary Clinton. He had previously said that Facebook’s disclosure of Russian ads was just the “tip of the iceberg.”

“The level of sophistication of some of this effort on the social media side and the level of targeting really leaves me with a lot of questions and questions we’re going to want Facebook to answer in public,” Warner said Wednesday.

While a date for the hearing hasn’t been set, Warner told CNN that Twitter would brief his committee privately on its findings next week.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company continues “to cooperate with the relevant investigative authorities.” Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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