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Majority of divisive Facebook ads bought by "suspicious groups" - study

From Reuters - April 16, 2018

(Reuters) - Most of the political ads about divisive issues that ran on Facebook Inc before the 2016 U.S. presidential election were sponsored by suspicious groups with no publicly available information about them, according to a study released on Monday and based on a database of five million ads on Facebook.

One in six of those groups was linked to Russia, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison study here, and the identities of the rest of the 122 groups that are labeled "suspicious" are still unknown, an indication of the influence of "astroturf" or shell companies in U.S. politics.

Over a quarter of the suspicious ads mentioned Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, two of the presidential candidates in the election, and 9 percent expressly advocated for or against individual candidates.

Most other ads deliberately avoided mentioning candidate names while still getting the message out by doing things like supporting policies pushed by candidates, Young Mie Kim, the lead researcher said.

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