House Democrats release Russian-bought Facebook ads to show 'malign' effect on 2016 election

House Democrats released more than 3,500 Russian-bought Facebook ads Thursday. You can view the ads in a file published by the House Intelligence Committee.

“There’s no question that Russia sought to weaponize social media platforms to drive a wedge between Americans, and in an attempt to sway the 2016 election,” Congressman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement.

The majority of the ads target politically divisive issues like gun control, race relations and immigration. Much of the wording is awkward, as though translated into English, and inflammatory.

“They attempted to hijack legitimate events meant to do good – teaching self-defense, providing legal aid – in support of their malign object,” Schiff said. “They sought to harness Americans’ very real frustrations and anger over sensitive political matters in order to influence American thinking, voting and behavior.”

One example of an IRA-funded ad is below:

Facebook said in a blog post following the release, “we were too slow to spot this type of information operations interference.” The company outlined several changes it has already made to its ad policies.

The ads were released by Democrats on the highly polarized House Intelligence Committee. The committee’s Republican majority, led by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., wrapped up its investigation and released a final report in April that found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The House and Senate Intelligence committees had each been investigating foreign meddling on the social media platform before and during the 2016 presidential election. Select ads purchased by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency have previously been released, but the House Intelligence Committee said Thursday, “all but 30 of the 3,519 are new.”

Here’s the full statement from Schiff:

“Last year, the bipartisan leaders of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation made a commitment to the American people to publicly release the Facebook advertisements used by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency, so that Americans can begin to understand how Russia used social media to influence the 2016 election, and to divide us. Today, the Committee’s Minority is fulfilling that promise.

“There’s no question that Russia sought to weaponize social media platforms to drive a wedge between Americans, and in an attempt to sway the 2016 election. They did this by creating fake accounts, pages and communities to push divisive online content and videos, and to mobilize real Americans, unwittingly, to sign online petitions and join rallies and protests. Russia sought to divide us by our race, by our country of origin, by our religion, and by our political party. They attempted to hijack legitimate events meant to do good – teaching self-defense, providing legal aid – in support of their malign object. They sought to harness Americans’ very real frustrations and anger over sensitive political matters in order to influence American thinking, voting and behavior. This was accomplished by engaging in online communities built around common interests and that appeared organic and American, but were actually run by a troll farm in St. Petersburg.

“Since our open hearing in November 2017, we have worked closely with Facebook to ensure that the American people can see the full extent of Russia’s malign use of social media. 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. Facebook worked with us to ensure this information became public, redacting an appropriate amount of personally identifiable information to protect legitimate users and children, and giving advance notice to users whose events were unwittingly promoted by the IRA. Ultimately, by exposing these advertisements, we hope to better protect legitimate political expression and discussions and better safeguard Americans from having their information ecosystem polluted by foreign adversaries.

“We will continue to work with Facebook and other tech companies to expose additional content, advertisements, and information as our investigation progresses.”

—CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.

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