Facebook Looked Into Suspicious Content Bolstering Sanders’ Campaign

AUSTIN, TX - FEBRUARY 23: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during a campaign rally at Vic Mathias Shores Park on February 23, 2020 in Austin, Texas. With early voting underway in Texas, Sanders is holding four rallies in the delegate-rich state this weekend before traveling on to South Carolina. Texas holds their primary on Super Tuesday March 3rd, along with over a dozen other states. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - FEBRUARY 23: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during a campaign rally at Vic Mathias Shores Park on February 23, 2020 in Austin, Texas. With early voting underway in Te... AUSTIN, TX - FEBRUARY 23: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during a campaign rally at Vic Mathias Shores Park on February 23, 2020 in Austin, Texas. With early voting underway in Texas, Sanders is holding four rallies in the delegate-rich state this weekend before traveling on to South Carolina. Texas holds their primary on Super Tuesday March 3rd, along with over a dozen other states. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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February 24, 2020 6:51 p.m.

Facebook Inc. reportedly conducted an investigation into suspicious content favoring Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) presidential campaign in recent weeks, according to a Wall Street Journal report Monday.

People familiar with the matter told WSJ that Facebook could not substantiate claims that supporters of President Trump or Russian actors were involved in producing inauthentic activity, however.

Some of the people who spoke with WSJ said that although some of Facebook’s leadership were briefed on the investigation, it is unclear whether the probe is ongoing.

WSJ’s Monday report comes on the heels of Friday reports that U.S. officials briefed Sanders on attempts by Russia to boost his presidential campaign.

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told WSJ that the company launched its investigation into suspicious pro-Sanders content after an outside researcher’s claim. People familiar with the matter noted to WSJ that not all internal inquiries are flagged to senior officials like this one was.

“We investigate each credible claim we receive, just as we did in this instance when an outside researcher contacted us,” Stone told WSJ. “To date, we have not been able to substantiate the researcher’s claims and we have not been notified by the intelligence community.”

A person familiar with the matter told WSJ that within the past several months, two separate and independent online disinformation researchers have found what they determined to be proof of inauthentic pro-Sanders Facebook activity possibly linked to Russian operatives or Trump supporters. People familiar with the review added that at least one of those data sets was shared with Facebook, according to WSJ.

Stone also told WSJ that “had we found a campaign of coordinated inauthentic behavior, we would’ve removed it and announced it publicly, just as we did more than 50 times last year.”

When asked by TPM for a statement regarding Facebook’s inquiry, Sanders’ campaign declined to comment.

TPM also reached out to Facebook for comment. We will update this post if we hear back.

Read the Wall Street Journal’s report here.

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