Released Facebook Ads Show How Russia Stoked Racial, Religious Tension

Lynne Hanson
November 2, 2017

Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch told the committee that 16 million Americans may have been exposed to Russian information on its picture-sharing service Instagram beginning in October 2016.

Attorneys for Facebook, Google and Twitter have participated in a trio of federal hearings this week in which lawmakers grilled them on how they allowed a Russian influence campaign to buy ads and spread original content on issues including race, religion and gun ownership.

According to data released by the House Intelligence Committee, the troll group spent more than $2,500 in 2015 and 2016, paid in rubles, promoting this ad.

"You created these platforms and now they are being misused". "Russia was able to weaponize your platforms to divide us". "You have to be the ones to do something about it or we will".

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Tech firms tried to draw attention to work that they were doing to improve and crack down on malicious foreign actors but were shot down in many cases by lawmakers who called their work to vague.

Facebook has been warning for more than a year about reaching a limit in "ad load", or the number of ads the company can feature in users' pages before crowding their News Feed. Each general counsel also struggled to name an executive at their company who is specifically tasked with overseeing the threat. Content generated by the Kremlin-linked troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency reached almost 150 million people through Facebook and Instagram, he said. It is not clear how numerous 150 million people who were served that content actually saw it.

King, who called Russia's influence online a "sophisticated worldwide strategy", used information compiled by Alliance for Securing Democracy to show that Russian Federation continues to try and interfere in American discourse by propagating hashtags related to President Donald Trump's attacks on NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, Trump's catchphrase "MAGA", and the ongoing conflict in Syria. The pro-Texas page-called Heart of Texas-encouraged its 253,000 followers to gather at an Islamic Center in the city on that day to stop the "Islamization of Texas", while a "United Muslims of America" page, which had 328,000 followers, pushed an event at the same time and place, calling on supporters to "Save Islamic Knowledge". Experts have said that the Russians' goals included promoting discord in the US and inciting violence.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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