They were shared and promoted from pages with titles like “Back the Badge,” “Brown United Front,” and “Woke Blacks.” Their purpose? To spread clicky, viral, and divisive memes on divisive issues like race, religion, gender, the Second Amendment, and Hillary Clinton, both before and after the 2016 presidential election.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released the entire trove of 3,519 ads that Facebook identified as having been promoted by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm that aimed to sow division and fear, from April 2015 well into 2017.
Along with the ads themselves, the House committee gave VICE News the Kremlin’s biggest hits: the ads that were clicked, commented on, and shared a lot more than others.
The top ad was “Back the Badge,” which was seen more than 1.3 million times before the election and clicked 73,000 times. Facebook said that IRA spent about 110,587 rubles (or $1,751) to promote it. The ad was promoted to groups like “state police,” “law enforcement in the United States,” “Sheriffs in the United States,” “Law enforcement or police officers,” and “Officer Down Memorial Page,” using Facebook’s ad tools.
Other ads targeted Facebook advertising interest groups like “Confederate Flag,” “Southern Pride,” and “Stop Police Brutality or Black.”
The second-most-shared ad, from a page called “Brown Power,” was viewed nearly 1 million times. The Russians spent $959 to promote it, and it was clicked 56,000 times. The ad targeted Facebook users aged 16-65+ who lived in the United States, and whose interests were identified by Facebook as “Mexico,” “Latin hip-hop,” “Hispanidad,” or “Chicano Movement.”
Those ad-targeting categories are the same types of categories that any advertiser on Facebook could use to target a specific interest group or demographic. In that sense, the IRA was using the Facebook advertising model exactly as it was designed to be used.
Here are the top 10 Russian troll ads on Facebook. Black images indicate the original post contained a video:
"Back the Badge," 1,334,544 impressions, October 2016
"Brown United Front," 968,768 impressions, December 2016
"Woke Blacks," 752,179 impressions, December 2016
"Blacktivists," 530,762 impressions, December 2015
"Patriotus," 529,205 impressions, June 2015
"South United," 511,224 impressions, October 2016
"Blacktivists," 501,552 impressions (video), February 2017
"Blacktivists," 489,186 impressions (video), April 2017
"pray4police" (Instagram), 418,904 impressions (video), April 2016
"Williams & Kalvin," 371,295 impressions, April 2016
This article originally appeared on VICE News US.