Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee just released every single Russian-sponsored Facebook ad used to troll the 2016 U.S. election, totaling more than 3,000, from 2015 to late 2017.
The ads, promoted during the run-up to Election Day, were a coordinated attempt by Russia's Internet Research Agency — known colloquially as Russia’s “Troll Factory” — to sow division among Americans on Facebook. Those efforts led Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify in front of Congress last month and contributed to changing how the company approaches “fake news” and ads on the site. In April, Facebook also announced the deletion of 70 Russian Facebook accounts and 138 pages.
House Democrats broke down the ads into nine categories, according to CNET: events, African-American focused, immigration, the Second Amendment, heart of Texas, LGBT, Muslims, veterans, and candidates. The report details the cost of each post and how many people viewed them.
You can download the entire trove of ads here.
Some of the ads are blatantly political in nature and mention candidates like Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, while others’ intentions are less clear. For example, one post by “L for life” writes, “Such a beautiful day! Such a beautiful view!” with a picture of what appears to be the Los Angeles skyline. That cost the agency 29 cents. Those types of ads were likely intended to boost the pages’ presence on Facebook and gather a following.
Altogether, Russian trolls reportedly spent around $100,000 to reach 11.4 million American Facebook users with the more than 3,0000 ads through 470 Facebook pages, according to the House Intelligence Committee. But the Internet Research Agency didn't have to pay for all the posts. The group put up another 80,000 organic posts that were still viewed by more than 126 million Americans. The organic posts, however, weren’t released along with the others on Thursday, although the committee expects to make them public soon.
“They sought to harness Americans’ very real frustrations and anger over sensitive political matters to influence our thinking, voting, and behavior. They created online communities that appeared organic and American but were really run by a troll farm in St. Petersburg,” California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement on Twitter. “By exposing these Russian-created Facebook advertisements, we hope to better protect legitimate political expression and safeguard Americans from having the information they seek polluted by foreign adversaries. Sunlight is always the best disinfectant.”
FBI special counsel Robert Mueller indicted more than a dozen Russians linked to the agency in February. The indictment said specialists working for the Internet Research Agency were instructed to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them).”
Here are some examples of the ads below: