Facebook Ads show Russian effort to stoke division
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 that 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.
Facebook revealed in September that it had discovered the divisive ads, which were paid for in rubles. Ads were still running in July and August of 2017, weeks before Facebook made the effort public.
The trove of ads released Thursday appears to back the assertion that the Russians wanted to hurt Clinton.