Shedding more light on foreign efforts to divide Americans before and after the 2016 presidential election, Democrats on the House intelligence committee just published more than 3,000 Facebook ads created to sow discord. 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.
Created by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, the ads ran on Facebook and Instagram between 2015 and 2017.
Some of the most divisive ads capitalized on the political movement Black Lives Matter and hot button political issues including immigration, gun control, the religion of Islam, and LGBT-centric topics. The majority were found to be connected to accounts linked to the Internet Research Company, which was charged by special counsel Robert Mueller with waging "information warfare" against the U.S.
3519 ads from Russian-backed groups show the level of Russia's disruption of U.S. politics on social media platform Facebook.
The Kremlin has denied interfering in the election.
The indictment was part of Mueller's larger investigation into Russian intervention in the election and whether Trump's campaign was involved.
The pile of social media evidence was released as some states have already held primaries for this year's midterm elections, amid warnings that electoral systems haven't been sufficiently safeguarded. On Thursday morning, it released every single purchased ad. Some spread rumors about her husband, former president Bill Clinton, or promote lies about her.
Hundreds of the ads ran after the election, continuing the effort to sow discord.
A series of ads running two days after Trump was elected called on his backers to head to Trump Tower to oppose "massive crowds of libtards" who had gathered in Manhattan.
In many cases, the Kremlin-tied ads took multiple sides of the same issue.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pauses while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington DC in April.
And the barrage of ads continued after the election in November 2016. With the release of the ads, the public can see exactly how many impressions and clicks each ad had, but it can't be ascertained how many people may have been moved to attend a rally after a post urged them to do so. Under fire from Congress, the social media giant has pledged improvements to its ad policies and enforcement.
"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. After being fiercely criticized by politicians on both sides of the aisle at last November's tech hearings, Facebook finally owned up to the seriousness of the problem in March, when it announced that it would have political advertisers in the USA verify who they were.