Facebook says ten million Americans saw the ads, and 146 million, or almost half of the US population, may have been reached by content from Russian operatives such as status updates and videos on Facebook and Instagram. Sometimes, Russian trolls also tried to fuel rallies and protests, endeavoring at one point in 2016 to pit Beyonc? fans and critics against each other in New York City.
In November, lawmakers released a small sample of the ads, but on Thursday, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee made a decision to publish the full batch with the goal of educating the public on the Russian election-meddling efforts. They were created to draw clicks from people who had liked Facebook groups on both sides of emotional issues involving gun regulations, Muslims, gay rights, immigration, African-Americans - and various candidates. "They sought to harness Americans' very real frustrations and anger over sensitive political matters to influence our thinking, voting and behavior".
"The only way we can begin to inoculate ourselves against a future attack is to see first-hand the types of messages, themes and imagery the Russians used to divide us", he added.
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"This will never be a solved problem because we're up against determined, creative and well-funded adversaries". "But we are making steady progress". "Over time, these social media accounts became Defendants' means to reach significant numbers of Americans for purposes of interfering with the US political system, including the presidential election of 2016". "They created fake accounts, pages and communities to push divisive online content and videos, and to mobilize real Americans". Another 20 million saw IRA-generated content on Instagram. 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 US verify who they were. Accounts like United Muslims of America urged viewers in NY in March 2016 to "stop Islamophobia and the fear of Muslims".
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) highlighted a few of the ads on his Twitter account. These ads will also clearly state who paid for them.
Since releasing the ads, Facebook has been trying to prevent similar foreign manipulation in other elections around the world, as well as in this year's United States congressional elections. Ads on another page around the same time encouraged Muslims to let everyone know they didn't support terrorism.
The files published show the text of each ad, number of impressions and number of clicks. Zuckerberg had originally expressed shock foreign actors would try and exploit Facebook to sow divisions during the 2016 election campaign, but his company eventually advised Congress of hundreds of suspicious ads.