Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have shared more details of Russia's interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election with the release of 3,000 Facebook ads. The ads, purchased by Russia's Internet Research Agency (IRA), ran from 2015 to 2017.
Committee members this week released a total of 3,519 ads and stated more than 11.4 million Americans were exposed to them. The IRA also created 470 Facebook pages, which generated 80,000 pieces of organic content and were seen by more than 126 million Americans, the Committee reports. It plans to release this organic content at a later date.
Earlier this year, a federal grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities, including the IRA, for their participation in a scheme to interfere with the 2016 election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller alleges that they aimed to sow discord in the US political system. They posed as US citizens and businesses to buy political ads on social media and spread disinformation.
Now we have more details about what these ads included and who they targeted. While not all of them are pro-Trump, they depict controversial and high-profile issues -- the Second Amendment, Black Lives Matter movement, immigration, LGBT rights among them -- in a way designed to pit groups of Americans against each other.
In recent public statements, Facebook admits it was "too slow to spot this type of information operations interference" and the company says it plans to make changes with the intent of stopping threat actors from leveraging misinformation to change the democratic process. For example, Facebook is creating an archive so users can search back through issues and political ads for up to seven years and view ad impressions, spending, and demographic data like age, gender, and location. Advertisers will need to confirm their ID and location before running political ads in the US, and ads will say who paid for them.