US Congress releases treasure trove of Russian Facebook ads

House Intel Committee  Facebook

House Democrats released more than 3,500 Russian-bought Facebook ads Thursday.

The ads, fewer than 50 of which had previously been revealed, offer. From pro-police posts, to pro-Black Lives Matter posts to calls for Texas Secessionist rallies to posts designed for LGBTQA activists or fans of Fox News, Russia left no stone un-turned when it came to exploiting the fault-lines in America. An IRA-backed account on Instagram aimed a January 2016 ad about "white supremacy" specifically to those whose interests included HuffPost's "black voices" section.

"For the first time in American history, the leading candidate for the Democrat party is running on a platform that would prohibit the private ownership [or outright confiscation] of firearms", one ad said on a page dubbed "Being Patriotic". Numerous ads have been made public over the past year, but the database provides a fuller picture of an effort that cost the Russians barely United States dollars 100,000 to reach 126 million Americans and arguably impact the race that sent Trump to the White House over favored Clinton.

While the effort has been known and some ads identified before, the cache released Thursday provides new understanding and shows how far it went. Together, these ads cost 8,700 rubles, or $140, and gathered almost 27,000 impressions.

For example, on June 6th 2016 Russian trolls ran and ad for a "Justice for Alton Sterling" rally in Baton Rouge via the group "Don't Shoot".

"They sought to harness Americans' very real frustrations and anger over sensitive political matters in order to influence American thinking, voting and behavior", said Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee's top Democrat, in a statement. Facebook has been hiring more people to work on election security, indicating that they think it will be a long-term issue, like spam and hacking, that requires constant vigilance. The ad said people should gather at Trump Tower the Saturday after the election: "Show Mr Trump there actually ARE people in NY who voted for him!"

Special counsel Robert Mueller in February indicted a number of Russians who worked for the Internet Research Agency. Under fire from Congress, the social media giant has pledged improvements to its ad policies and enforcement. The company outlined several changes it has already made to its ad policies.

"The only way we can begin to inoculate ourselves against a future attack is to see firsthand the types of messages, themes and imagery the Russians used to divide us", he said.

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