— Thomas Paine (@Thomas1774Paine) September 28, 2017
FBI officials are pressing to broaden the scope of US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Facebook investigation, saying the Russian ad sales linked thus far to the social media giant are merely a “small piece” of company’s exposure.
While Mueller is looking at thousands of likely illegal Facebook ads sales to Russian entities before the 2016 presidential election, FBI sources believe Mark Zuckerberg’s executives — and perhaps even Zuckerberg himself — knew for almost two years that rogue Russian entities were purchasing ads yet did not stop them. And the company failed to report the illegal activity to federal authorities, federal law enforcement sources confirm..
Instead, Facebook turned its corporate cheek and kept cashing the foreign checks so to speak.
FBI sources believe other foreign entities — in the Ukraine, China and elsewhere — may have been running similar ad schemes through Facebook, sources said. Those purchases were likely not reported either. Nor were they halted by Facebook executives.
The majority of the ads at the center of this controversy appear to try and sway votes for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Reports thus far in mainstream-media-funded publications portray that such Russian ads were part of a scheme linked to help President Donald Trump win the election. The data, however, proves the opposite. The ads were largely pro Democrat.
Governed by a host of federal laws, it is illegal for foreign individuals or entities to make any political contributions connected to American elections.
FBI sources are pressing for a broader investigation into Facebook to pinpoint just how many ads were sold to foreign entities in Russia and countries beyond.
So far, in response to a recent warrant from Mueller, Facebook has returned data on approximately 3,000 ads linked to Russian concerns. Federal law enforcement sources said the FBI needs to ascertain the social media giant’s exposure and not allow Zuckerberg to dictate or disseminate the information.
“They have turned over Russian ad data but it has been like pulling teeth,” one source said. “The warrant did not cover say London-based companies or people purchasing the same ads. Could be Russians fronting from any place, including the United States. Facebook has only turned over a small piece.”
Federal sources said they believe Zuckerberg’s confirmation of 3,000 Russian-linked ads is grossly under reported and said Facebook will likely be forced to turn over details of a “significant number” of additional Russian ad sales.
Facebook’s CSO Alex Stamos wrote in a blog post that the majority of the ads of interest “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum … touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”
But Stamos was only addressing the ads sought by Mueller’s investigators. Separate FBI agents believe the scope of the warrant was limited, likely based on the direction of Mueller’s probe. Federal law enforcement sources said a broader probe could reveal a much large problem for Zuckerberg.
Sources said while Zuckerberg is putting on a public facade of turning over documents voluntarily to Congress and investigators, behind the scenes his legal team has been anything but accommodating.
One FBI source this is another reason federal agents are looking to expand the investigation outside the realm of Mueller.
“When you act like this on the other side, it almost always means there is much more to find,” a FBI insider said. “They are guarding more problems.”