U.S. Lawmakers Release Sample Of Russian Bought Facebook Ads
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers released a batch of Russian-bought Facebook Inc ads on Wednesday that showcased politically charged content allegedly spread on social media by Moscow ahead of the 2016 U.S. election.
Some of the ads criticized candidates, while others sought to organize or promote simultaneous rallies for opposite sides of divisive issues. The sample posted on a House committee website pulled from the roughly 3,000 ads Facebook provided to congressional investigators last month.
Tech companies recently acknowledged that Russia-based content on U.S. politics and social issues like gun rights, immigration, religion and race had spread on their platforms before and after the election.
Some of the ads sampled specifically dealt with the U.S. election and were critical of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. One from an account called “Army of Jesus” said Clinton was supported by evil forces.
“Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is,” the post read. It added that Republican candidate Donald Trump was “an honest man” who “cares deeply for this country.”
Other ads appeared to be aimed at setting up clashes over hot-button issues.
One ad from a group calling itself “Heart of Texas” promoted a rally in Houston on May 21, 2016 to “Stop Islamization” in the U.S. state. Another ad from a separate Facebook page promoted a pro-Islam rally at the same time and venue.
The Russian government has denied any attempts to sway the 2016 election, in which U.S. President Donald Trump defeated Clinton.
The ads were released at a U.S. House Intelligence Committee hearing, where lawyers from Facebook, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google testified about Russian influence on their networks.
It was the second straight day the companies attempted to ward off criticism from lawmakers that they were slow to respond to Russian abuse.
Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, again came under the most scrutiny from lawmakers, who expressed frustration with the company because of its role in targeted marketing.
Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch told the committee that 16 million Americans may have been exposed to Russian information on Facebook’s picture-sharing service Instagram beginning in October 2016. The election was on Nov. 8.
An additional four million may have seen such material on Instagram before October, though that data was less complete, Stretch said.
The Instagram figures were in addition to the 126 million Americans who may have seen Russian-backed political content on Facebook over a two-year period, a number the company disclosed earlier this week.