House Intel Dems release thousands of Kremlin-linked Facebook ads

House Intel Dems release thousands of Kremlin-linked Facebook ads
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Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released thousands of copies of Kremlin-linked Facebook advertisements used during the 2016 presidential election, a data dump that provides a greater understanding of a Russian company's disinformation campaign across social media.

The lawmakers released more than 3,500 Facebook ads purchased by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian firm with ties to the Kremlin. Over 11.4 million American users were exposed to these ads between 2015 and 2017.

"There's no question that Russia sought to weaponize social media platforms to drive a wedge between Americans, and in an attempt to sway the 2016 election," Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffInternet security leader: Hackers are 'trying to undermine very process of democracy' Republicans and Democrats alike face troubling signals from voters Schiff blasts GOP for Russia probe conduct: 'That's how you obstruct an investigation, not how you conduct one' MORE (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, said in a statement.

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"They did this by creating fake accounts, pages and communities to push divisive online content and videos, and to mobilize real Americans, unwittingly, to sign online petitions and join rallies and protests," he continued.

An NBC news report highlighted a number of the ads in the release, noting that ads targeted a wide audience including fans of conservative Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, fans of the Black Lives Matter movement and those interested in LGBT-centric topics. 

Russian Sponsored FB Posts in 2nd Quarter 2016 on Scribd

The Intel panel in November highlighted the Internet Research Agency's extensive efforts online while releasing a smaller batch of Facebook and Twitter ads purchased by the company.

Schiff said releasing the ads is part of the committees' pledge last fall to share more information about Russia's social influence campaign.

"The only way we can begin to inoculate ourselves against a future attack is to see first-hand the types of messages, themes and imagery the Russians used to divide us," Schiff said.

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE charged 13 Russian individuals and three Russian groups earlier this year for engaging in "information warfare" during the election, alleging that they had used social media and other sophisticated measures to sow discord in the U.S.

According to court documents, Mueller alleges that the Internet Research Agency "had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election."

Schiff made similar assertions on Thursday.

"They sought to harness Americans' very real frustrations and anger over sensitive political matters in order to influence American thinking, voting and behavior. This was accomplished by engaging in online communities built around common interests and that appeared organic and American, but were actually run by a troll farm in St. Petersburg," Schiff continued.

The Kremlin has denied interfering in the election. The intelligence community, however, has overwhelmingly concluded that they sought to meddle in the U.S. political system.