The House Intelligence Committee published more than 3,500 Facebook ads linked to the Russian propaganda group Internet Research Agency today.
The Internet Research Agency is a Kremlin-backed online troll farm. In February this year, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian individuals linked to the IRA.
According to Recode, some of the IRA’s ads were used as examples when executives from Twitter, Facebook, and Google testified before Congress. However, this is the largest trove of Russian Facebook advertisements the public has seen to date, which perhaps makes the House Democrats’ drop even more significant.
Screenshots of some of the ads, published by Recode, reveal they had targeted groups like Black Lives Matter, which was called a “radical hate group,” but they had also targeted law enforcement.
“This is the face of American police! They are raised as racists and trained to see Blacks as targets!” one ad reads.
This, perhaps, amplifies what Alex Stamos, Chief Security Officer at Facebook wrote in a blog post, published on Facebook’s corporate blog back in September 2017.
“The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the US presidential election, voting or a particular candidate. Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”
In short, Russian Facebook ad campaigns seem to have been primarily focused on causing chaos, amplifying division, and not on aiding any particular candidate.
“Their aim was to sow chaos. In many cases, it was more about voter suppression rather than increasing turnout,” member of the Democratic Party and currently a Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus and the Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mike R. Warner told the Washington Post, following Facebook’s blog post.
Today, a few hours after House Democrats released 3,500 Russia-linked Facebook ads, the same outlet published an analysis meant to help the public “get a better sense of how the Russian interference effort operated — and how well it worked.”
The files released by House Democrats, Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote, provide information about when ad campaigns began, when they ended, how much they cost, and how effective they were.
In total, Russia-linked Facebook ads generated more than 37 million impressions. This peaked in October 2016, December 2016, and February 2017. However, the ads were clicked on about 3.7 million times, proving impressions are not engagement. Interestingly, most of those clicks came after the election.
The most popular campaign, Washington Post’s analysis shows, was a pro-law enforcement campaign – an ad campaign meant to encourage Americans to support the police. Starting in October 2016, the ad campaign earned 1.3 million impressions and 73,000 clicks.
Other ad campaigns were much less successful.