Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, which is one of several congressional panels investigating Russian influence in the election, released a sampling of the ads previous year but chose to disclose the entire collection "so that Americans can begin to understand how Russia used social media to influence the 2016 election, and to divide us". Another ad criticizing a Texas school teacher who lost her job after making racist remarks was aimed at adults living in Cleveland, Baltimore, St. Louis and Ferguson, Mo. A January 2016 ad that promised news on "bad" refugees got five clicks when targeted at those interested in immigration or conservatism.
The "Internet Research Agency", which is either a vast criminal conspiracy that tilted the 2016 election or a hodgepodge collection of irrelevant shit-posters, depending on your perspective, apparently spent most of their time targeting two specific but very different groups: "Black Lives Matter", and devotees of Sean Hannity. It appeared in Facebook news feeds nearly one million times. Ads were still running in July and August of 2017, weeks before Facebook made the effort public.
Earlier this year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three Russian groups, accusing them of working to meddle in US elections, including the 2016 presidential election.
The pile of social media evidence was released as some states have already held primaries for this year's midterm elections, amid warnings that electoral systems haven't been sufficiently safeguarded.
One post from October 2016, depicting Clinton with a clown nose, promises that by liking the "Clinton FRAUDation" page you'll learn "everything you wanted to know about Clinton's dark side".
Thursday's release shows the Russians also targeted Mexican-Americans.
They even managed to spread news of an anti-Beyonce rally in New York City.
In a conference earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the corporation would now actively verify the authors of political advertisements. With the release of the ads, the public can see exactly how many impressions and clicks each ad had, but it can't be ascertained how many people may have been moved to attend a rally after a post urged them to do so.
For example, on June 6th 2016 Russian trolls ran and ad for a "Justice for Alton Sterling" rally in Baton Rouge via the group "Don't Shoot". Under fire from Congress, the social media giant has pledged improvements to its ad policies and enforcement.
In the meantime, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said lawmakers would continue probing Russia's online disinformation efforts.
One day after Dylann Roof killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, a Russian propaganda account, Black Matters, gave Facebook 1,295 rubles (about $20) for one ad, seeking to capitalize on the tragedy by getting more users to follow the account.