Facebook recently investigated research around suspicious content on its platform meant to support the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The newspaper, citing unnamed sources, reported that top executives at Facebook were notified of the investigation, which was sparked by two independent outside researchers who told Facebook they found evidence that pro-Sanders content was being circulated by Russian agents and Trump supporters.
A Facebook company spokesperson pushed back against that Wall Street Journal article, telling The Hill in statement that the company has not been able to validate the claims made by researchers.
“We welcome and regularly receive reports from the research community,” the spokesperson said. “We investigate each credible claim we receive, just as we did in this instance when an outside researcher contacted us. To date, we have not been able to substantiate the researcher’s claims and we have not been notified by the intelligence community.”
The spokesperson added 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.”
Facebook regularly discloses and removes inauthentic information from its platform, most recently earlier this month when it removed false content originating from Russia, Iran, Vietnam and Myanmar.
The company took down accounts in October that originated in Russia and Iran and were spreading misinformation pertaining to elections in the U.S., Latin America and North Africa.
News of the investigation into pro-Sanders content comes after The Washington Post reported last week that Sanders’s campaign had been told by intelligence officials that Russia was attempting to interfere in the 2020 elections in support of Sanders.
Sanders responded to that report by saying in a statement Friday that “unlike Donald Trump, I do not consider Vladimir Putin a good friend. He is an autocratic thug who is attempting to destroy democracy and crush dissent in Russia.”
“Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts, and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election,” Sanders said.
The New York Times reported last week that the House Intelligence Committee was told by intelligence officials that Russia was interfering in the 2020 elections in support of President Trump.
Concerns over election interference from Russia have intensified since the 2016 elections. According to U.S intelligence agencies, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the report compiled by former special counsel Robert Mueller, Russian agents conducted a sweeping campaign to interfere in the 2016 elections through both disinformation on social media and hacking efforts.