Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released thousands of copies of Kremlin-linked Facebook advertisements used during the 2016 presidential election, a data dump that provides a greater understanding of a Russian company's disinformation campaign across social media.
Most of the ads are issue-based, pushing arguments for and against immigration, LGBT issues and gun rights, among other issues. Under fire from Congress, the social media giant has pledged improvements to its ad policies and enforcement. On Thursday morning, it released every single purchased ad.
The ads were released by Democrats on the highly polarized House Intelligence Committee. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDems get documents from late GOP operative who tried to obtain deleted Clinton emails: report Schiff: Trump made mistake of "historic proportions" by scrapping Iran deal House Dems" campaign arm rips Trump, GOP over Iran deal: "Vote them all out' MORE (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, said in a statement. Just last month, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee contended in their own report on Kremlin interference that Russian Federation tried to sow discord among American voters but did not attempt to boost Trump's candidacy.
Facebook said it has made changes to stop such ads from being posted on its site.
For two years, Russian agents proffered similar ads around issues like racism and causes like Black Lives Matter.
"The only way we can begin to inoculate ourselves against a future attack is to see first-hand the types of messages, themes and imagery the Russians used to divide us", Schiff said. They relied on Facebook features to target specific categories of users.
"Over time, these social media accounts became Defendants' means to reach significant numbers of Americans for purposes of interfering with the USA political system, including the presidential election of 2016." . They contain examples like the one below, which was created on July 14th of 2016. At the same time, another account - targeting black users - directed viewers to a pro-Beyoncé protest at the same location. For example, Russian Federation crafted ads to represent both sides of immigration debates, but simply promoting immigration as a leading issue in the election could have worked to Trump's advantage. They marketed a page called Born Liberal to likely supporters of Sen.
Some of the ads promoted Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, who were running against Hillary Clinton, and one showed former President Obama in the Oval Office with an Islamic State flag behind him.
"Moscow's influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations-such as cyber activity-with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or "trolls".
Hundreds of the ads ran after the election, continuing the effort to sow discord. And Google discovered a small number of ads purchased by the IRA on YouTube, its video platform.