The House Intelligence Committee released a sampling of the Facebook ads and posts linked to a Russian troll operation during and after the 2016 presidential election.
Facebook told senators earlier Wednesday that the ads on its platform and on Instagram had reached 146 million people, again revising up its estimate of how many users had been reached by posts connected to the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm with ties to the Russian government.
The committee also released the names of some Twitter accounts that were linked to the targeting.
The ads were released during the House committee's open hearing with representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google on how their platforms were used by Russia to interfere in last year's election. The committee is led by Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, and Rep. Mike Conaway, a Texas Republican, who has led the committee's Russia probe since Chairman Devin Nunes stepped aside from the investigation.
Facebook has previously said a portion of the ads were targeted by location. In at least one case, an ad referencing Black Lives Matter was targeted toward people in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, which have both seen violent clashes in recent years following the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police.
Facebook revealed in early September that fake accounts and pages linked to Russia spent approximately $100,000 on political ads during and after the last presidential campaign. Most of the ads, Facebook said, didn't necessarily mention specific candidates. "Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights," Facebook said.
Facebook subsequently turned over the more than 3,000 Russian-linked ads to congressional committees investigating interference in the 2016 campaign.
While the Senate Intelligence Committee has maintained it has no plans of releasing the ads, the Conaway and Schiff said in October that they were working with Facebook to delete personal information from the ads, with the aim of releasing them publicly after the hearings in both the Senate and House Intelligence committees with representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google.
It is illegal for foreign entities to make contributions in US elections, but a lack of rules around online political advertising means the Russian ad activity could go mostly undetected. In the Senate, three senators have introduced a bill that would increase transparency around ads on Facebook and other websites. Facebook has also announced measures to increase transparency around paid political ads.
Emma Loop is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. PGP fingerprint: 4A39 DD99 953C 6CAF D68C 85CD C380 AB23 859B 0611.
Contact Emma Loop at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.