Release of Thousands of Russia-Linked Facebook Ads Shows How Propaganda Sharpened

Newly released documents show how Russian propagandists on Facebook grew increasingly sophisticated and inflammatory in their tactics over two years as they worked to sow discord in the U.S. before and after the 2016 presidential election.

Newly released documents show how Russian propagandists on Facebook grew increasingly sophisticated and inflammatory in their tactics over two years as they worked to sow discord in the U.S. before and after the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday made public for the first time the full cache of more than 3,000 ads that Facebook Inc. FB +1.57% said were purchased by a pro-Kremlin group, the Internet Research Agency. The ads, fewer than 50 of which had previously been revealed, offer the clearest window yet into the evolving tactics used by the group as it sought to amplify social and political tensions in the U.S.

The Russian-backed pages initially deployed relatively simple techniques, buying ads targeted to reach large segments, such as all Facebook users living in the U.S. Many of those ads gained little traction with users. By 2017, the tactics were sharper, the cache shows. They bought ads focused on a specified radius around specific cities and targeted people with certain job titles, such as “coal miner,” or certain employers—including Facebook itself.

The ads show how aggressive and broad-based the Russian-backed Facebook pages were in pushing hot-button social and racial issues, including illegal immigration and police brutality. Some pages used Facebook to publicize real-world rallies in cities across the U.S. Others used Facebook to sell apparel or gain personal information about users by urging them to fill out surveys or share their profile photos.

Only a subset of the ads explicitly mentioned the election, and those that did largely attacked Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton or raised doubts about the federal government. On Election Day, for example, an ad posted by a Russian-backed page named “Williams&Kalvin” urged black voters to boycott the election. “This time we choose between two racists. No one represents Black people. Don’t go to vote,” the ad said, which was seen nearly 8,500 times. Other ads after the election sought to stir up anti-Trump sentiment among African-Americans.

Source: Release of Thousands of Russia-Linked Facebook Ads Shows How Propaganda Sharpened

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