To stir discord in 2016, Russians turned most often to Facebook

While the indictment does not accuse Facebook of any wrongdoing, it provided the first comprehensive account from the authorities of how critical the company’s platforms had been to the Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election. Facebook and Instagram were mentioned 41 times, while other technology that the Russians used were featured far less. Twitter was referenced nine times, YouTube once, and electronic payments company PayPal 11 times.

It is unprecedented for an American technology company to be so central to what the authorities say was a foreign scheme to commit election fraud in the United States. The indictment further batters Facebook’s image after it has spent months grappling with questions about how it was misused and why it did not act earlier to prevent that activity.

Jonathan Albright, research director at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, said the indictment laid bare how effectively Facebook could be turned against the country.