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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spent $81 million on Facebook ads before last year’s election

That’s a lot more than Russia spent, Facebook would argue.

President Trump at a political rally in Phoenix holds his hand to his ear as though saying, “I can’t hear you.” Ralph Freso / Getty

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spent big on Facebook ads last year ahead of November’s presidential election.

The two candidates and their campaigns spent a combined $81 million on ads, according to Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch, who unveiled the number during a congressional hearing Wednesday focused on Russia’s attempt to use social platforms to interfere in the election. Facebook made about $28 billion in revenue in 2016, most of it from advertising.

The $81 million number was brought up in comparison to how much money was spent by accounts with Kremlin ties. Facebook claims that Russian-backed accounts spent approximately $100,000 on about 3,000 Facebook ads intended to spread misinformation. (Here are a few examples of those ads.)

The takeaway from Facebook here is that the ads from Russia represented a very small portion of the overall advertising that was going on around the election.

This has been a key argument from Facebook, Twitter and Google during this whole process: Content from Russian-controlled accounts was just a drop in the bucket compared to all of the other ads and posts people could have seen on their respective services.

Still, Facebook admitted Wednesday that as many as 146 million people in the U.S. may have seen a post or ad from an account with Russian ties on either Facebook or Instagram. Originally, the company estimated that just 10 million people had seen the 3,000 ads. Now we know over a hundred million more also saw the organic content posted from these same accounts.

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