LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman apologized Wednesday for financing a group tied to a misinformation campaign on Facebook and Twitter during the 2017 Alabama Senate race.
In a post on Medium, Hoffman denied knowing American Engagement Technologies, the group he was funding, was leading a digital campaign to dissuade Alabama conservatives from voting for Republican nominee Roy Moore, who was accused of sexual misconduct by several women during the race.
AET stealthily financed a project where phony Facebook users pretended to convince fellow conservatives to not vote for Moore, according to The New York Times last week.
“I categorically disavow the use of misinformation to sway an election,” Hoffman wrote. “In fact, I have deliberately funded multiple organizations trying to re-establish civic, truth-focused discourse in the US. I would not have knowingly funded a project planning to use such tactics, and would have refused to invest in any organization that I knew might conduct such a project.”
Hoffman said the “most disturbing aspect” of the NYT report was the group creating fake Twitter accounts, doctored with Russian-sounding names, to follow Moore in a “false flag” attempt to discredit him. Hoffman — who said he was “embarrassed” by his “failure to track AET” — added “I do have an apology to make and have learned a lesson here.”
A rep for Moore did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
The Times’ report shined a light on how American political groups are leveraging tactics used by Russian trolls during the 2016 presidential election to target their adversaries. The Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-tied troll network, has looked to manipulate credulous Instagram and Facebook users with bogus memes and news stories.
AET is led by Mikey Dickerson, a former Obama administration official who worked to ramp up the federal government’s adoption of new technology. Dickerson did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s for comment. He’s declined comment to The Times and The Washington Post.
Hoffman, who has become a billionaire behind several shrewd Silicon Valley investments, gave $750,000 to AET, according to WaPo. In response to Donald Trump’s election win in 2016, Hoffman said in his blog post he’s since invested in dozens of organizations aiming to “accelerate positive change.” He said he’ll pay closer attention to where his money is going in the future.