For more than a year, we’ve heard that Russian operatives used Facebook groups and targeted ads to influence the 2016 US election and sow discord in the United States. Facebook has declined to release the ads to the public, but today, Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee dropped a data dump of 3500 examples for your browsing pleasure.
Last October, House members said that they were working with Facebook to scrub any personally identifiable information from the ads, and it’s taken months to get today’s release prepared.
The ads come from both Facebook and Instagram. In an accompanying statement, they’re identified as the work of the Internet Research Agency (IRA) – the notorious “troll farm” that’s been linked to the Kremlin. In February, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 people who were allegedly members of the IRA and participated in activities designed to disrupt the US presidential election.
The committee is framing this release as an effort “to educate the public and seek additional analysis”, and writes that this is the entirety of the ads that Facebook has identified as being linked to the IRA. That doesn’t necessarily mean this is all of the content that was part of the Russian propaganda campaign, but it does give us a chance to look at examples of the tactics that were used.
The ads tend to play both sides of hot-button issues. You’ll find a lot of content that’s related to race relations, and according to the Chicago Sun-Times, “some promote President Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, who ran against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. Few, if any, support Clinton.”
You can find all of the documents here. Unfortunately, they come in a cumbersome PDF format and are split into batches that have to be opened one at a time, but we’re sure to see a more scroll-friendly Tumblr page in the near future.