Congress Releases Russian-Linked Facebook Content

The congressional hearings for Facebook, Google and Twitter continued today as the three technology companies are being questioned on how Russian operatives meddled in the 2016 U.S. election by spreading fake news, misinformation and controversial ads on their respective platforms.

Much of the focus has been on Facebook since a September bombshell revealed 3,000 Russian-linked ads were bought for a collective $100,000 from June 2015 to May of 2017, prior to and following the last U.S. presidential election.

The company then revealed on Tuesday that 80,000 posts were linked to a Russian “troll farm”—the Internet Research Agency—and exposed to 126 million Americans. That last number was revised to 146 million after Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch reported 120,000 Instagram posts were also connected to the Russian operatives.

Now some of the ads handed over by Facebook in the Russian troll farm’s campaign have been released by the House Intelligence Committee.

The public sample show hateful messages against Hillary Clinton as well as pro-gun, anti-Muslim, anti-immigration and anti-Black Lives Matter. The divisive posts, account pages and ads were created to resemble organic Facebook content–presumably to sway public opinion.

One ad suggested women wearing burqas should be banned from the country. The post earned 14,000 reactions, 5,000 comments and 4,300 shares. An anti-black lives matter post was targeted to Americans aged 18 to 65 or over resulted in 3,362 ad impressions and 761 clicks–all for $8.56 USD.

Facebook’s Stretch informed Congress that the Internet Research Agency spent $46,000 on pre-election day ads. The content posted by the Russian troll farm garnered thousands of impressions on Facebook through reactions, comments and shares. It is worth noting, however that the spend amounts to fraction of the combined $81 million spent on Facebook ads by the Clinton and Trumps campaigns.

Although Facebook has largely been in the hot seat, Twitter reported 131,000 tweets were shared by Russian agents on its platform and Google’s YouTube accounted for more than 1,000 uploaded videos.