Lawmakers release thousands of Russian Facebook ads
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats on the House intelligence committee have released more than 3,500 Facebook ads that were created or promoted by a Russian internet agency, providing the fullest picture yet of Russia's attempt to sow racial and political division in the United States before and after the 2016 election.
Most of the ads are issue-based, pushing arguments for and against immigration, LGBT issues and gun rights, among other issues.
A large number of them attempt to stoke racial divisions by mentioning police brutality or disparaging the Black Lives Matter movement. Some promote President Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, who ran against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary. Few, if any, support Clinton.
The intelligence committee Democrats released a sampling of the ads purchased by Russia's Internet Research Agency last year, but they are now releasing the full cache of ads that Facebook officials turned over to the panel after acknowledging in September they had discovered the Russian efforts.
The release of ads from early 2015 through mid-2017 does not include 80,000 posts the agency also shared. Some of the ads are partially redacted, part of an effort by Facebook and the committee to protect unsuspecting people whose names or faces were used.
An Associated Press review of the thousands of ads and their data shows how precisely – and sometimes randomly – the agency targeted them.
Some ads designed to appeal to critics of immigration were targeted to users who liked specific Fox News hosts, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, "Old Glory" and the United States Constitution, among other words.
Others were more narrowly targeted. Facebook users within 12 miles of Buffalo, N.Y., were directed to an event supporting justice for a black woman who died in a county jail. Another ad criticizing a Texas school teacher who lost her job after making racist remarks was aimed at adults living in Cleveland, Baltimore, St. Louis and Ferguson, Mo.