Facebook ads chief under fire over Russian fake news claims

Facebook's executive Rob Goldman has come under fire after an extraordinary outburst in which he claimed Russia's influence on Donald Trump's 2016 US presidential election victory has been overstated.

The social media giant has found itself being scrutinised over the alleged influence of Russian-sponsored ads and fake news articles, with special counsel Robert Mueller conducting an ongoing investigation into the issue.

An indictment against 13 Russians, announced on 16 February, charged them with creating false American identities with the aim of creating division in US society.

Goldman, the social network’s vice-president of advertising, argued in a series of tweets that it proved that Russian ads on Facebook had no impact on the election result, as most spending occurred after the poll.

"Very excited to see the Mueller indictment today. We shared Russian ads with Congress, Mueller and the American people to help the public understand how the Russians abused our system. Still, there are keys [sic] facts about the Russian actions that are still not well understood," Goldman said.

"Most of the coverage of Russian meddling involves their attempt to effect the outcome of the 2016 US election. I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal.

"The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election. We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Tump [sic] and the election.

"The main goal of the Russian propaganda and misinformation effort is to divide America by using our institutions, like free speech and social media, against us. It has stoked fear and hatred amongst Americans. It is working incredibly well. We are quite divided as a nation."

In response, Mainardo de Nardis, executive vice-chairman Omnicom Media Group and former chief executive of OMD Worldwide, accused Goldman and Facebook of spreading misinformation.

"You really are not in a position to preach and your astonishing tweets have created confusion and anger. Enough damage done over the past 2+ years. In the absence of real actions silence would be appreciated," de Nardis said.

Goldman’s claims were endorsed by Trump, who himself tweeted: "The Fake News Media never fails. Hard to ignore this fact from the Vice President of Facebook Ads, Rob Goldman!"

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