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Thursday, May 10, 2018
U.S. Congress Releases List of Russian Ads That Appeared on Facebook During U.S. Elections

Today, House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff published the 3,000 ads the Russia-based Internet Research Agency ran on Facebook and Instagram between 2015 and 2017.

Facebook gave these ads to Congress so they could better understand the extent of Russian interference in the last US presidential election. You can view the ads in a file published by the House Intelligence Committee.

"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," Congressman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement.

The House and Senate Intelligence committees had each been investigating foreign meddling on the social media platform before and during the 2016 presidential election. Select ads purchased by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency have previously been released, but the House Intelligence Committee said Thursday, "all but 30 of the 3,519 are new."

The majority of the ads target politically divisive issues like gun control, race relations and immigration. Much of the wording is awkward, as though translated into English, and inflammatory.

In the run up to the 2016 elections, Facebook has admitted it was too slow to spot this type of information operations interference. Since then, the company says it has made changes to prevent bad actors from using misinformation to undermine the democratic process.

In April, Facebook says it removed 70 Facebook and 65 Instagram accounts - as well as 138 Facebook Pages - controlled by the IRA targeted at people living in Russia or Russian-speakers in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. The IRA has been using complex networks of inauthentic accounts to deceive and manipulate people in the US, Europe and Russia.

Currently, you should be able to see all the ads an advertiser is currently running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. And for issue and political ads, Facebook is creating an archive so you can search back seven years - including for information about ad impressions and spend, as well as demographic data such as age, gender and location. People in Canada and Ireland can already see all ads that a Page is running on Facebook - and Facebook will launch this globally in June.

In addition, every advertiser will now need confirm their ID and location before being able to run any political or issue ads in the US.

Improvements in machine learning and artificial intelligence means Facebook can proactively identify suspicious behavior at a scale that was not possible before - without needing to look at the content tself.

Facebook is also doubling the number of people working on safety and security from 10,000 last year to over 20,000 this year.

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