US lawmakers released all 3,000 ads created by accounts linked to the Russian government in the years and months preceding the 2016 presidential election, as well as the following year.
Some of the ads were released previously, but, as of May 10, everyone can see the full cache, organized by quarter from 2015 to 2017 on the website of the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. The ads include obvious partisan content supporting one candidate or the other, efforts to promote political rallies, as well as so-called “issue ads” on topics such as Black Lives Matter or the secession of Texas from the US. Some of them were seemingly innocuous memes portraying funny animals.
Following widespread outcry after it was disclosed such ads had run on Facebook, the company has taken a number of steps to prevent election meddling in the future. Advertisers who are running political and issue ads have to verify their physical location and identity, and the ads have to include who paid for them. All ads associated with a given Facebook page are meant to be visible in a special tab, a feature the company has been testing in Canada, which ProPublica criticized as insufficient.
Facebook also said it’s building a repository for all political ads, but has not given much detail on the project.
Earlier this week, the company banned advertising from foreign groups related to Ireland’s abortion referendum, which will take place May 25. Several anti-abortion groups based in the US were buying ads on the platform in Ireland to push their agenda.
The cache released by the House Intelligence Committee includes detailed information on how each ad was targeted, and how much money was spent. It all makes for some creepy reading. An ad for a game called “Hilltendo” says:
Check this out!While Americans are deciding who to vote for at the 2016 presidential election,the official Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, is having fun. Travel with Hillary as far as you can, picking up emails and money,avoiding FBI agents,journalists and missiles along the way.
It was targeted to people’s whose interests include “Donald Trump” and “online flash games.”
An ad that redirected to a “Black Lives Matter” page gives a quote that it attributes to activist and author Angela Davis reads:
“Just like Trayvon Martin, race mattered for Amadou Diallo,Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Emmett Till, and [thousands] more we will never know the name of who died because of their skin color.” – Angela Davis
Racism is stil alive in the USA.
It was targeted to people who live in Baltimore, Maryland, Ferguson, Missouri, and Cleveland, Ohio.
Russian agents were organizing various political events, rallies for candidates on both sides, and protests:
Some of the ads were clearly designed to sow division…
…while others seemed to be purely to drive traffic.