A small number of the accounts identified as part of Facebook’s investigation into Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election also used the company’s Messenger product to interact with users, admitted Facebook’s VP of messaging products David Marcus during his appearance at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ.D Live conference in Laguna Beach, Calif. Wednesday.
Marcus declined to specify how many of the 470 Facebook accounts identified so far used messaging, calling it an “active investigation.” But he also seemed defiant about Russian entities using the product to message users: “That’s the whole point. The whole point of the platform is: You can reach everyone.”
Marcus also said that messaging on Facebook is restricted to certain types of interactions, limiting the way Russian groups could have used Messenger. “When you are a page, for instance, you cannot message people. People have to message you,” he said.
Russia’s use of Facebook to influence the 2016 election has been making headlines in recent weeks. The company identified some 470 accounts used by Russian operatives, and a total of 3000 ads that have been seen by about 10 million U.S. users.
On Wednesday, Marcus seemed frustrated about the attention this story has gotten. “The narrative about Facebook as of late has not been super positive,” he said. “The impact that Facebook has in the world — we don’t talk about it anymore. It’s overshadowed by this narrative.”
Immediately following the 2016 election, Facebook executives dismissed the idea that Facebook could have had an effect on the election. More recently, the company has stepped up its efforts to ban covert actions, and has been hiring thousands of people to review political ads.
“We need to increase our level of scrutiny,” admitted Marcus. “I’m absolutely confident that we have the right plan.”