After Congressional pressure, Facebook handed over the over 3,000 ads, which 10 million people saw. As recently as July 20th, the social media titan insisted that Russian actors hadn’t bought advertisements on the network — though, to their credit, the contractors Facebook uses to scan potential ads weren’t trained to screen out political content or propaganda. Information surfacing in the last month revealed that the Russian hacking operation Internet Research Agency had bought the ads.
The advertisements’ content and delivery show a pattern of intentional manipulation. For one, the content intentionally stoked tension by inflaming racial issues, like promoting Black Lives Matter in one ad while portraying it as an existential threat to America in another. Plus, the ads targeted key demographics in swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin.