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Newly disclosed Facebook ads show Russia’s cyber intrusion

  • Facebook ads linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the American political process are displayed as, from left, Google's Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker, Facebook's General Counsel Colin Stretch, and Twitter's Acting General Counsel Sean Edgett, testify during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Manuel Balce Ceneta

  • Twitter's acting General Counsel Sean Edgett, from left, Facebook's General Counsel Colin Stretch and Google's Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker, testify before a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Manuel Balce Ceneta

  • Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., left, with Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., right, questions Facebook's General Counsel Colin Stretch, Twitter's Acting General Counsel Sean Edgett, and Google's Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker, about the Russian ads during a House Intelligence Committee task force hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Manuel Balce Ceneta

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., right, with Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, center, and Denny Heck, D-Wash., questions Facebook's General Counsel Colin Stretch, Twitter's Acting General Counsel Sean Edgett, and Google's Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker, about the Russian ads during a House Intelligence Committee task force hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Manuel Balce Ceneta

  • Some of the Facebook ads linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the American political process and stir up tensions around divisive social issues, released by members of the U.S. House Intelligence committee, are photographed in Washington, on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. The ads, dozens of which were disclosed for the first time, were released as representatives of leading social media companies faced criticism on Capitol Hill about why they hadn't done more to combat Russian interference on their sites and prevent foreign agents from meddling in last year's election. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick) Jon Elswick

  • Facebook ads linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the American political process are displayed as Google's Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker, Facebook's General Counsel Colin Stretch, and Twitter's Acting General Counsel Sean Edgett, testify during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Manuel Balce Ceneta



Associated Press
Thursday, November 02, 2017

A trove of Facebook ads made public Wednesday by Congress depicts Russia’s extraordinary cyber intrusion into American life in 2016 aimed at upending the nation’s democratic debate and fomenting discord over such disparate issues as immigration, gun control and politics.

The ads, seen by vast numbers of people, encouraged street demonstrations against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and fostered support and opposition to Bernie Sanders, Muslims, gays, blacks and the icons of the Civil Rights movement.

The few dozen ads, a small sampling of the roughly 3,000 Russia-connected ones that Facebook has identified and turned over to Congress, were released amid two consecutive days of tough and sometimes caustic questioning by House and Senate lawmakers about why social media giants hadn’t done more to combat Russian interference on their sites.

The ads underscore how foreign agents sought to sow confusion, anger and discord among Americans through messages on hot-button topics. U.S. intelligence services say the Russian use of social media was part of a broad effort to sway the 2016 presidential election in favor of Trump. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the Kremlin worked with the Trump campaign to influence voters.

Many of the ads show careful targeting, with messages geared toward particular audiences. One ad, aimed at those with an interest in civil rights and their leaders, highlights a man who claims to be Bill Clinton’s illegitimate son. Another video parodying Trump was targeted at blacks who also are interested in BlackNews.com, HuffPost Politics or HuffPost Black Voices.

Though officials at Facebook and other social media giants were initially reluctant to acknowledge Russian success on their sites in swaying popular opinion, company leaders have struck a different tone in recent weeks and disclosed steps to Congress they say are intended to prevent future meddling by foreign agents.

In preparation for hearings this week, Facebook disclosed that content generated by a Russian group, the Internet Research Agency, potentially reached as many as 126 million users. Company executives said that going forward they would verify political ad buyers in federal elections, requiring them to reveal correct names and locations. The site will also create new graphics where users can click on the ads and find out more about who’s behind them.

But that did not prevent hours of questioning during two days of hearings, with lawmakers expressing exasperation at the seeming inability to thwart foreign intervention.