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Billionaire apologizes for funding group behind disinformation in Alabama race

WASHINGTON — Billionaire Reid Hoffman apologized Wednesday for funding a group linked to a ‘‘highly disturbing’’ effort that spread disinformation during last year’s Alabama special election for US Senate, but he said he was not aware that his money was being used for that purpose.

Hoffman’s statement was his first acknowledgment of his ties to a campaign that adopted tactics similar to those deployed by Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential election. In Alabama, the Hoffman-funded group allegedly used Facebook and Twitter to undermine support for Republican Roy Moore and boost Democrat Doug Jones, who narrowly won the race. Hoffman, an early Facebook investor and the cofounder of LinkedIn, expressed support for a federal investigation into what happened, echoing Jones’s position from last week.


Hoffman named a group he funded, American Engagement Technologies, or AET, as being involved in the effort to spread disinformation targeting Moore. Hoffman invested $750,000 in the organization, some of which covered its work in Alabama, according to a person close to the matter.

But the statement left key facts unaddressed, including a full accounting of everyone who crafted and executed the campaign.

The effort was the subject of a presentation in September to a group of liberal-leaning technology experts who met in downtown Washington to discuss electoral tactics, according to one of the attendees and documents from that meeting obtained by The Washington Post.

Hoffman has spent millions of dollars on ‘‘dozens of organizations,’’ he said Wednesday, including startups that seek to apply Silicon Valley’s penchant for disruption to politics.

washington post