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Artist ‘vandalises’ Snapchat’s AR Balloon Dog sculpture


Artist 'vandalises' Snapchat's AR Balloon Dog sculpture

Image copyright Sebastian Errazuriz
Image caption Sebastian Errazuriz shared images of his protest sculpture on Instagram

An artist has "vandalised" Snapchat's newest feature in protest against an "augmented reality corporate invasion".

Snapchat recently teamed up with artist Jeff Koons to make 3D replicas of his artwork visible with its smartphone app in nine major cities.

Sebastian Errazuriz protested by making a graffiti-covered replica of Koons' Balloon Dog sculpture in Central Park.

An academic said the protest draws attention to "important questions" about cities' digital spaces.

Snapchat's artworks are part of its 3D World Lenses offerings, which add augmented reality filters to real-world scenes when using its app.

Mr Errazuriz said that while Snapchat's virtual installations seem "relatively innocent", they also represent a "technological and social milestone".

"The growth of augmented reality… will soon see corporations increasingly encroaching on public space.

"It is vital to open up a dialogue and start questioning now how much of our virtual public space we are willing to give to companies."

Image copyright Sebastian Errazuriz
Image caption "Central Park belongs to the city of NY," Mr Errazuriz wrote on Instagram. "Why should corporations get to geo-tag its [GPS] co-ordinates for free?"

Mr Errazuriz said he and his team at studio Cross Lab initially submitted their protest sculpture to Snapchat.

When they received no response, they created an independent app called ARNYC, which allows users to see both the original Snapchat sculpture and the graffiti-covered version in the same location.

ARNYC's website says that the app is still being reviewed.

Mark Graham, professor at the Oxford Internet Institute, said "we should be asking questions" about who controls a city's virtual space.

"I don't think that there is anything particularly problematic with Snapchat's decision to display virtual installations around the world," he told the BBC.

Image copyright Snap
Image caption Snapchat users can only see Mr Koons' artworks if they are at specific locations

"The issue is more just that, as ever more people experience their cities through a digital lens, everyone should feel they have a right to access, use, and create in those digital spaces."

"I think Mr Errazuriz's protest is effective in the sense that it draws attention to important questions about control, access, and visibility of the digital layers of our cities."

Snapchat's Balloon Dog is also visible in Hyde Park in the UK.

Snapchat has not yet responded to requests for comment.

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Airbnb paid £188,000 in UK tax last year


Airbnb paid £188,000 in UK tax last year

Image copyright Getty Images

Airbnb, the accommodation website, paid less than £200,000 in UK corporation tax last year despite collecting £657m of rental payments for property owners.

The commissions the company earns in the UK are booked by its Irish subsidiary, but it also has two UK subsidiaries.

One unit made a pre-tax profit, but the other did not incur UK corporation tax because deductions resulted in a loss.

Airbnb said in a statement: "We follow the rules and pay all the tax we owe."

One of the British subsidiaries, Airbnb Payments UK, handles payments between landlords and travellers for countries other than the United States, China and India.

That unit made a pre-tax profit of £960,000 and paid £188,000 in UK corporation tax – £8,000 less than in 2015.

The other British subsidiary, Airbnb UK, markets the website and app to British consumers. It reported a £463,000 pre-tax profit last year but because it gave shares to staff, which are tax-deductable, there was no corporation tax bill.

Airbnb said: "Our UK office provides marketing services and pays all applicable taxes, including VAT. The Airbnb model is unique and boosted the UK economy by £3.46bn last year alone."

The tax arrangements of other technology giants have come under under closer scrutiny in recent years.

One of the most vocal critics has been EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. She has taken aim at the likes of Apple, Amazon and others for where they book the revenues and profits of their European activities.

Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, has also asked why Airbnb paid tens of thousand of euros in French corporation tax despite a turnover in the millions.

The company, founded in San Francisco in 2008, has disrupted the hotel industry by linking travellers with landlords who generally want to rent out a spare room or an entire property for short-term stays.

It has become one of the most successful examples of the digital economy, with an estimated value of about $24bn.

However, Airbnb has faced a growing backlash in cities including Barcelona, Berlin and Paris, where politicians have taken steps to stop landlords renting properties to tourists rather than local residents.

While Airbnb has long been linked with a stock market listing, it remains privately owned.

It takes a 3% commission from landlords for each booking, and also charges fees to travellers.

In the UK last year Airbnb catered for 5.9m travellers and had 168,000 listings.

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Internet speed guarantees must be realistic, says Ofcom


Internet speed guarantees must be realistic, says Ofcom

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ofcom wants internet providers to give users more realistic information about speeds

Internet users are to be granted more rights on connection speeds as Ofcom imposes tougher rules on how ISPs advertise broadband services.

The proposals give consumers the right to exit contracts penalty-free if speeds fall below a guaranteed minimum.

Ofcom says there is a mismatch between what is advertised, and the speeds customers receive.

But experts say speeds are affected by different factors, and are not strictly a measure of connection to a device.

A public consultation is currently being conducted until 10 November.

Easy way out

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "Many people seek our help each year because their slow and intermittent broadband service falls short of what their contract promised.

"For most people, a reliable broadband connection is a necessity, so when they don't get what they've paid for they should always have a quick and easy way out of their contract."

She said: "These changes are an important step in giving consumers more power to hold their broadband provider to account for poor service."

Ofcom's existing broadband code of practice requires ISPs to provide consumers with an estimate of the internet speed they can expect from their service.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many different factors can influence browsing speeds on a computer or tablet

If the proposed rules pass consultation, broadband providers will need to be much more specific about the speeds customers will receive and will have to set a guaranteed minimum speed for each package.

This could mean current estimates of "up to 17Mbps" become "a minimum of 10Mbps".

If the speed falls below the guaranteed minimum, under the new rules, the ISP will have one month to fix the problem, and if it cannot be fixed, the customer can terminate the contract without penalty.

Right to know

A BT spokesperson said: "We remain firmly supportive of Ofcom's voluntary code of practice on broadband speeds, including the latest proposed changes which we hope will make things even clearer for our customers. We have been working with Ofcom and other ISPs to improve the code."

"We support the emphasis on customers knowing what broadband speeds will be delivered at peak times and we are happy to commit to letting customers leave without penalty if they don't reach their minimum guaranteed speeds and we can't fix the issue within a month."

When broadband connections become slow and intermittent, consumers often use speed tests in order to see what connection speeds they are actually receiving.

Image copyright Eyewire
Image caption The changes will mean users of higher-speed links get better estimates of speed

But it is a complex issue, according to a technology expert.

Andrew Ferguson, editor of Think Broadband, said: "The code-of-practice changes are very welcome, but it's clear from years of experience that broadband providers are not deliberately and systematically ripping off the customer.

"The biggest problem for an ISP is balancing the desires of the marketing department against what consumers are actually experiencing every day. These rules, once implemented, should help to force providers to be more honest with their customers," said Mr Ferguson.

Many factors can influence browsing speeds, he said. These include

  • how wi-fi signals travel around a home
  • how well ethernet cables work
  • how computers handle net protocols
  • whether a computer can process higher speeds
  • anti-virus software
  • peak-time congestion

"What I'm trying to get the general public to understand is that when they say a guaranteed speed, it's usually just to that broadband router, but not to your PC or device," Mr Ferguson told the BBC.

"A speed test is not your connection speed. Sometimes the speed is affected by distance limits, and sometimes it's physics."

Peak speeds

Ofcom is keen to change the existing rules because current protections apply mostly to broadband over copper-based phone lines, since buildings located far away from the cabinet on the street or the local exchange often receive lower speeds.

However, customers on cable or fibre networks can also experience problems during peak times, when many people in the area are using the network at the same time.

Often, said Mr Ferguson, the estimates that ISPs give of speed are for times when few other people are browsing.

The rule changes will demand that ISPs guarantee better peak speeds for all and be more realistic about what service consumers will get.

Andrew Glover, chairman of the Internet Services Providers' Association told the BBC: "Ispa supports the consultation and the direction of travel that is being proposed by Ofcom.

"The speed of a connection is clearly important for consumers, and while our members are offering faster and faster speeds across the nation, a lot of factors can affect the speed that individual consumers can achieve.

"Some of these factors are outside the control of the provider but we fully agree with Ofcom that speeds need to be communicated in a transparent manner."

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Cyber-security threat to UK ‘as serious as terrorism’ – GCHQ


Cyber-security threat to UK 'as serious as terrorism' – GCHQ

Image copyright PA

Keeping the UK safe from cyber-attacks is now as important as fighting terrorism, the head of the intelligence monitoring service GCHQ has said.

Jeremy Fleming said increased funding for GCHQ was being spent on making it a "cyber-organisation" as much as an intelligence and counter-terrorism one.

It comes after the NHS and parliament suffered cyber-attacks this year.

Mr Fleming said there had been nearly 600 "significant" cyber-attacks needing a national response in the last year.

'Deeply challenging'

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the ex-deputy director of MI5, who became GCHQ director in March, said the UK's adversaries were "quick to spot new ways of doing us harm".

"We see that in the way terrorists are constantly changing their weapons, or states are using their full range of tools to steal secrets, gain influence and attack our economy".

But he said until the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) was set up last year, GCHQ's work on cyber-security "too often felt like the poor relation".

Image copyright Foreign Office
Image caption Jeremy Fleming became head of GCHQ earlier this year

The NCSC now has a "world-leading programme to reduce the incidence and impact of cyber-attacks without users even noticing," he added.

It now works with private firms, schools and universities as well as the media, as part of its cyber-security role.

That can "feel deeply challenging" for the secretive Cheltenham-based agency, which is used to working "in the shadows", he added.

Digital homeland

However, he said: "If GCHQ is to continue to help keep the country safe, then protecting the digital homeland – keeping our citizens safe and free online – must become and remain as much part of our mission as our global intelligence reach and our round-the-clock efforts against terrorism."

In May, NHS services across England and Scotland were hit by a large-scale cyber-attack that disrupted hospital and GP appointments.

The incident was part of an untargeted wider attack affecting organisations globally.

And in June, up to 90 email accounts were compromised during the cyber-attack on Parliament.

Last week, NCSC head Ciaran Martin said 1,131 cyber-attacks were reported in the centre's first year.

Of those, 590 were classed as significant and more than 30 were assessed as serious enough to require a cross-government response.

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100 Women: Five things I learned as a woman in Silicon Valley


100 Women: Five things I learned as a woman in Silicon Valley

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Media captionLea and Sasha are starting on their professional journey and are already battle-scarred

The BBC's 100 Women 2017 season is tackling some of the biggest issues facing women around the world and has given teams of experts a week to change the world. It kicked off by challenging women working at the home of hi-tech industries in California's Silicon Valley to smash the glass ceiling, as the BBC's Nuala McGovern reports. Here are her five findings:

1) They will show up

We gave our team of four women just five days to make a product that would change women's lives in the workplace. A mammoth task in a minimal amount of time.

But from day one, they started making connections to make it happen. They reached out to networks of strangers and a huge variety of women were willing to pitch in.

  • Meet the women reshaping Silicon Valley

We had a Spanish diversity expert Skypeing in from Copenhagen, a wearable tech expert hopped on a plane from New York and even a couple of men showed up.

Dwight had "introvert" stamped on his baseball cap and didn't say much, but worked through the night with our women to invent something to crack that glass ceiling.

2) Women have been invited to the party, but they haven't been asked to dance

So what was the catalyst for their inventions? Enter our case studies: Erin who had trouble speaking up in meetings (more on Erin later), and Lea who described working in the "bro-culture" of Silicon Valley.

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Media captionHere is the moment when #teamlead found out their task for week one.

The term refers to the dominance of young white men that can create an environment that is unwelcoming to women and has been cited as one of the reasons that women drop out of the industry at twice the rate of men.

Lea described it as like "1000 little cuts" – ranging from inappropriate comments to unprofessional interviews to feeling outnumbered in meetings.

A well-known Silicon Valley saying is "move fast and break things", but the women I met said too many people are also getting broken in the process.

3) Take up the space you deserve

In what is sometimes a toxic environment for women, it's useful to keep adding tools to your survival toolkit.

Image caption Body language expert Amy Cuddy (left) with Erin

Amy Cuddy is a body language expert and many people (including me) have taken her advice on how your body can change how you feel. She flew in to give advice to Erin, who finds it tough to speak up in meetings.

She told Erin to "take the space you deserve". Don't collapse into yourself when you find the going a little tough in meetings, interviews or other challenging situations.

Keep that hand away from your neck, your hair. Shoulders back and hands on the table. All these actions create a neurological response that helps us perform at our best.

She is also now exploring the concept of 'presence' – of remaining your true self and completely within the moment rather than worrying about the future or the past.

4) The glass ceiling is titanium for some

Many of the women I spoke to pointed out that it is not a level playing field even among women themselves – your chances of success in the tech industry dwindle the further you are outside the norm.

So if you are a black or Latina woman in tech you have an even steeper mountain to climb.

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Media caption100 Women: What does sexism sound like?

At our World Service radio brainstorm on the topic, one of our panellists, Shellye Archambeau, pointed out that black women made up just 0.1% of CEOS in the Valley.

As The Guardian recently reported, participation in the tech industry by Latino and black industry professionals is actually on the decline – and although Asians are still being hired they are less likely than their white counterparts to make it up the ladder.

Experts say part of the problem is that managers tend to hire in their own image, or at least an image that they associate with success.

In the run-up to our Challenge Week we heard from Eileen Carey, CEO of start-up Glassbreakers, who as a natural blonde was advised to dye her hair brown for this reason.

5) Be the change you want to see

It might sound like I'm down on Silicon Valley. I'm not. It's an extraordinary place, filled with fabulously inventive people creating things we don't even know we need yet that will become essential to our lives.

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Media captionAre women hitting a glass ceiling, or are they also climbing a broken ladder?

I loved using an adult-sized slide every morning in the workplace and I loved people bringing their dogs to work. I had access to a 3D printer for whatever invention I might envision that day but there is also a diversity issue in the boardrooms of this industry that needs to be solved.

So what did our geeks make? They repeated the mantra "be the change you want to see". And after five days and very little sleep, they delivered:

  • An app that monitors speech in meetings
  • An elegant silver necklace that is actually wearable tech – and allows you to send positive messages to your female colleagues during meetings
  • A huge A-Frame installation that required me to dress as Rosie the Riveter

We drove it in a pick-up truck through downtown Palo Alto in rush hour to test on the public.

Image caption The women's A-Frame installation was tested on the Palo Alto public

It gathered stories of sexism from around the world and retold them in both a woman and a man's voice to raise awareness and provoke discussion.

In an area like Silicon Valley with so many huge brains centred in one place – including those of our experts – and a great appetite to disrupt the current status quo, it feels like there must be real change on the horizon.

What is 100 Women?

BBC 100 Women names 100 influential and inspirational women around the world every year. In 2017, we're challenging them to tackle four of the biggest problems facing women today – the glass ceiling, female illiteracy, harassment in public spaces and sexism in sport.

With your help, they'll be coming up with real-life solutions and we want you to get involved with your ideas. Find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and use #100Women

Read more: Who is on the 100 Women list?

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Facebook confirms Russia ads on Instagram


Facebook confirms Russia ads on Instagram

Image copyright Getty Images

Facebook has confirmed that around 5% of the adverts it has identified as having been bought by Russia around the time of the US presidential election also appeared on Instagram.

The firm has handed over around 3,000 ads to investigators working for the US Congress.

It said the subject of the ads included immigration issues, gun rights and LGBT topics.

They focused on "divisive social and political messages", it said.

In a blog post, Elliot Schrage, vice-president of policy and communications, wrote that he believed around 10 million people would have seen some of the adverts, but that 25% of them would not have been seen by anybody.

Virtually all (99%) were bought for less than $1,000 (£760) each, with half of those costing less than $3.

However around $6,700 was spent on the adverts which appeared on Instagram.

Facebook has announced changes to the way adverts are signed off, including "additional human review and approval" for some targeted ads.

It added that many of the adverts it shared with Congress did not violate its policies.

The US is carrying out a wide-ranging investigation into whether Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

Google did not directly confirm a report by the Washington Post which claimed that the tech giant had also uncovered advertising bought by suspected Russian agents across its platforms, including YouTube and Gmail, in an attempt to meddle with the election.

"We have a set of strict ads policies including limits on political ad targeting and prohibitions on targeting based on race and religion," said a spokesperson.

"We are taking a deeper look to investigate attempts to abuse our systems, working with researchers and other companies, and will provide assistance to ongoing inquiries."

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Websites hacked to mint crypto-cash


Websites hacked to mint crypto-cash

Image copyright Vichai
Image caption Generating crypto-currencies involves lots of computer hardware

School, charity and file-sharing websites have been caught out by scammers who are using them to generate crypto-cash.

Hackers have managed to install code on the sites that uses visitors' computers to "mine" the cyber-currencies.

One scan of the most popular websites found hundreds harbouring the malicious mining code.

By getting lots of computers to join the networks, attackers can quickly generate cash.

"This is absolutely a numbers game," said Rik Ferguson, vice-president of security research at Trend Micro.

Malicious use

Mr Ferguson said crypto-currencies operated by getting lots of computers to work together to solve the tricky mathematical problems that generate new digital "coins".

The number crunching is called mining and new crypto-coins are handed out to miners who are the first to solve the complex sums.

The more computer power that someone can amass, said Mr Ferguson, the more coins they can generate.

"There's a huge attraction of being able to use other people's devices in a massively distributed fashion because you then effectively take advantage of a huge amount of computing resources," he said.

Image caption Some sites were running lots of copies of the script

"Crypto-coin mining malware is nothing new," said Mr Ferguson, adding that the growing value of established cyber-currencies and the emergence of potentially valuable new ones was driving malicious use of the scripts.

A security researcher has scanned the code behind the million most popular websites to see which ones are running the widely used Coin Hive mining script.

Many sites use this and others, such as JSE Coin, legitimately to generate some money from their steady stream of visitors. Metrics published on the Coin Hive site suggest that a site that gets one million visitors a month would make about $116 (£88) in the Monero crypto-currency by mining.

On many sites found in the scan, the way the script was concealed suggested it had been uploaded surreptitiously.

The BBC contacted several of the sites in the UK running the Coin Hive script and those that responded said they did not know who added it to their site. Some have now deleted the mining code, updated their security policies and are investigating how the code was implanted.

Coin Hive's developers said it had also taken action against malicious use.

"We had a few early users that implemented the script on sites they previously hacked, without the site owner's knowledge," they said in a message to the BBC. "We have banned several of these accounts and will continue to do so when we learn about such cases."

It encouraged people to report malicious use of Coin Hive and said any site using it should inform users that their computer could be enrolled in a mining scheme. Some security programs and ad-blocking software now warn users when they encounter miners.

Security service Cloudflare has also suspended the accounts of some customers after they started using mining scripts. It explained its action by saying that it considered the code to be malware if visitors were not told about it.

Cloud cracking

Surreptitious coin mining is not just a problem for websites that have been hit by hackers. Many others across the tech world are moving to tackle the problem.

Last week, two senior officials in the Crimean government were reportedly fired because they had started using a lot of official machines to mine bitcoin. The creators of the FiveM add-on or "mod" for video game GTA V released an update which stopped people adding miners to their code.

High-profile websites including the Pirate Bay, Showtime and TuneProtect have all been found to be harbouring the script.

Prof Matthew Caesar, a computer scientist at the University of Illinois, said mining was also starting to cause problems for companies that offered cloud-based computing services.

Image copyright Rockstar Games
Image caption One popular mod for GTA V was updated to stop people adding mining code

Prof Caesar said he and student Rashid Tahir started investigating the problem after conversations with several cloud firms revealed that all of them had experienced trouble with coin-mining.

"If someone can hack into a cloud account they have access to a huge amount of computer power," he said. "They can get huge value from those accounts because there's not much limit on the number of machines they can use.

"Often," he said, "the billing systems the cloud services run do not reveal what's going on. Someone can get in and cause a lot of damage before they are shut down."

Victims can be left with huge bills for servers that attackers rented to do their coin-mining, he said.

The Illinois researchers are developing a monitoring system that can spot when the mining software was being used, he said.

The ways that modern processors handle the complicated maths demanded by crypto-currencies are relatively easy to spot if someone goes looking for them, said Prof Caesar.

"We're in the process of working with one cloud computing company to deploy the monitor in their network," he said.

"We're also looking at how we can do this on personal computers as well," he added.

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Apple checks ‘swollen’ iPhone 8 claims


Apple investigating swollen batteries in iPhone 8 Plus handsets

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Apple's iPhone 8 went on sale on 22 September

Apple is investigating a series of reports about battery problems with some of its new iPhone 8 Plus phones.

Over the last week, six reports have come to light which show the phones splitting apart soon after they start to be used.

In all cases the battery inside the phone has swollen rendering the phone unusable.

It is not yet clear whether the swollen batteries are a few isolated cases or are indicative of a bigger issue.

The first report about an affected iPhone 8 Plus came from Taiwan. Phones with similar problems have now emerged in Japan, China, Canada, Greece and Hong Kong.

In a statement, Apple said it was aware of the reports and was "looking into" what might have caused the fault.


Apple news site MacRumours, which reported the first incident, said given the huge number of iPhones that had been manufactured it was "common" for there to be a "very low percentage of defective units".

In a blog, Sam Jaffe, from analysts Cairn Energy Research Advisors, said battery bloat typically happened at the end of a battery's useful life. To have it happen soon after a product launch was troubling, he said.

"It could be a minor distribution of a random manufacturing error," wrote Mr Jaffe.

"If it's a little bit more than that, Apple might quickly be able to identify the battery manufacturing line that's responsible, shut it down and keep making iPhone 8s without any more issues," he added.

Apple's problems follow Samsung's experience with its Galaxy Note 7 last year.

Hundreds of faulty Galaxy Note 7s were reported as faulty soon after that device launched. The scale of the failure prompted Samsung to recall and discontinue the handset. The problem was traced to a design flaw.

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Google ‘uncovers Russian ad campaign linked to US election’


Google 'uncovers Russian ad campaign linked to US election'

Image copyright Getty Images

Google has found evidence that Russian agents spent tens of thousands of dollars on adverts in a bid to sway the 2016 US election, media reports say.

Sources quoted by the Washington Post say the adverts aimed to spread disinformation across Google's products including YouTube and Gmail.

They say the adverts do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-linked source that bought ads on Facebook.

Google said it was investigating attempts to "abuse" its systems.

US intelligence agencies concluded earlier this year that Russia had tried to sway the election in favour of Donald Trump.

The Russian government strongly denies the claims and President Trump has denied any collusion with the Kremlin.

The issue is under investigation by US congressional committees and the Department of Justice.

  • Russia: The 'cloud' over the White House
  • Can US election hack be traced to Russia?
  • Trump-Russia inquiry: How did we get here?

Sources said to be close to the Google investigation said the company was looking into a group of adverts that cost less than $100,000 (£76,000).

Google said in a statement: "We have a set of strict ads policies including limits on political ad targeting and prohibitions on targeting based on race and religion. We are taking a deeper look to investigate attempts to abuse our systems, working with researchers and other companies, and will provide assistance to ongoing inquiries."

Microsoft said on Monday it was also investigating whether any US election adverts had been bought by Russians for its Bing search engine or other products.

A spokesman told Reuters it had no further information at the moment.

Facebook said in September that it had uncovered a Russian-funded campaign to promote divisive social and political messages on its network.

It said that $100,000 was spent on about 3,000 ads over a two-year period, ending in May 2017.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg later said his company would pass the information to US investigators.

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