As part of its ongoing probe into Russian US election meddling, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have released a "representative sampling" of Facebook and Instagram ads allegedly purchased by Russian trolls during the US presidential campaign season.
The ads were obtained by Gizmodo as attorneys for Facebook, Twitter and Google testified before the committee today. In a statement, House Democrats, led by Rep Adam Schiff of California, said they continued to work with the social media companies to "scrub personally identifiable information" from the ads with the goal of releasing "all advertisements and content" identified as foreign propaganda.
The advertisements include references to various candidates, political organisations and issues, among them issues of race, immigration and religion. Illegal immigration, Sharia Law and Black Lives Matter are prominently mentioned.
According to the committee's figures, as well as those previously released by the social media companies themselves, Facebook's ads were seen by no less than 11.4 million Americans. That figure is considerably less than the 126 million users believed to have viewed organic, election-related content allegedly posted by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a St Petersburg-based propaganda outfit with reported Kremlin ties.
Twitter has identified 36,746 Russian-linked bot accounts that tweeted during the US election, which produced roughly 1.4 million tweets viewed approximately 288 million times. Around 131,000 tweets are said to be linked to the IRA trolls. YouTube, meanwhile, has identified 1108 election-related videos uploaded by Russian-linked accounts, which gathered around 309,000 views.
The Democrats also released metadata that accompanied the ads shared by Facebook. Several of the ads appear to have been purchased using Qiwi, a leading Russian payment service.
This ad was targeted to people who "liked" the LGBT United page on Facebook, and friends of those people. It ran for about 24 hours, earning 54 clicks and 848 impressions. The ad cost ₽111.49 ($2.49).
This ad targeted people in Kansas who were interested in Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, LGBT rights, same-sex marriage and LGBT community. The ad ran for almost two weeks, earning 240 clicks and almost 5000 impressions. It cost ₽3136 ($70.17).
This ad targeted people throughout the US who "liked" the Russian-created Facebook page called United Muslims of America, and the friends and connections of those people. It ran on Facebook for one day and wasn't clicked, but did appear in 11 users' newsfeeds. It cost ₽5.92 ($0.13).
This ad directed viewers to the Tea Party News account on Instagram and apparently featured a photo of a child, which has been redacted. It asked users to send in pictures of their own children to be featured on the account. The ad targeted people in the US who are interested in the Tea Party, Donald Trump, Trump's presidential campaign, Ivanka Trump's jewellery company, or Donald Trump, Jr. The ad ran for three days and received 78 clicks and 165,121 impressions. It cost ₽9970 ($223.09).
"Follow us if this video makes you proud!" this ad proclaimed. It targeted people in the US who were interested in Donald Trump's presidential campaign or the Tea Party. The ad was created on 22 April 2016 and doesn't have an end run date listed. It received 857 clicks and and more than 108,000 impressions. The ad cost ₽17,306 ($387.24).
This ad targeted people in people in Texas who are interested in independence or patriotism. It ran for one day, netting 808 clicks and and 3361 impressions. It cost ₽500 ($11.19).
This ad targeted people in the US, excluding Hispanic people and targeting Black people. The ad also targeted people who were interested in Huffington Post's Black Voices vertical, Huffington Post generally and BlackNews.com. The ad ran for three days and got 42 clicks and 716 impressions. It cost ₽300 ($6.71).
This ad reads: "Florida goes Trump! Here are Florida cities participating: Daytona Beach, Tampa, Fort Myers, Miami, Orlando, Pensacola, Ft Lauderdale, Sarasota, Clearwater, Oxford, West Palm Beach, Coral Springs." It further encouraged people who saw it to reach out through comments or via direct message. The ad ran on 16 August 2016 and ended the same day. It received 85 clicks and 9244 impressions. It cost ₽3178 ($71.11).
This ad, from a Facebook page called "Born Liberal", cites Bernie Sanders discussing the Clinton Foundation with CNN's Jake Tapper. The author writes: "The Clinton Foundation is nothing more than an 'organised crime' at it's finest, in which we are investing our taxpayers' money!" The ad ran on 8 June 2016 and ended the following day. It received 1938 ad impressions, 222 clicks, and cost ₽500 ($11.19).
This ad was purchased by a fake group called "Heart of Texas", and it denounced the "crimes" committed by "Killary Rotten Clinton". "What will happen if Hitlery becomes President?" it asked. The ad ran on 26 October 2016 and ended on November 3, less than a week before the US election. It received 16,168 impressions, was clicked 2342 times, and cost ₽3200 ($71.60). It targeted only people living in Texas.
This ad pronounced: "Hillary is Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is." It says, "[E]ven though Donald Trump isn't a saint by any means, he's at least an honest man and he cares deeply for this country. My vote goes for him!" It was purchased on 19 October 2016 for ₽64 ($1.43) and received only 14 clicks.
"Killery Clinton will never understand what it feels like to lose the person you love for the sake of your country," this ad states. The ad, which ran on Instagram, promoted T-shirts and read: "help a veteran." It ran for one day, on 17 August 2016, and cost ₽3083 ($68.99). It was clicked 517 times and gathered 17,654 impressions.
This ad, which ran the day after Trump won the US election, targeted New Yorkers and asked people to gather for a protest against then-President-elect Donald Trump. "People are genuinely scared for their futures! Racism won, Ignorance lost, Sexual assault won," it says. It ran on 9 November 2016 and cost ₽113 ($2.53). It received 26 clicks and 188 ad impressions.
This ad targeted people in the US who were interested in Martin Luther King, Jr; the Civil Rights Movement; African-American history; or Malcolm X. It ran for one day in mid-October, getting 1471 clicks and 15,453 impressions. It cost ₽1126 ($25.20).