Lawmakers Disclose Trove of Ads Russia Used to Influence 2016 Campaign

Russia Facebook ad
Courtesy of House Permanent Select Committee

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers made public a trove of Russian-backed social media ads designed to sway opinion and sow discord, primarily during the 2016 presidential election.

The release of the ads by House Democrats came as representatives for Facebook, Google, and Twitter faced their third hearing this week on what the companies discovered about the extent of Russian influence on their platforms, and what they plan to do about it in the future.

Some of the ads — covering topics like Black Lives Matter, Bernie Sanders, Islam, and illegal immigration — were shown during earlier hearings. They had been supplied by Facebook, but lawmakers made only a few public until Wednesday.

A Facebook ad, from an account “Stop A.I.,” shows a picture of a woman in a burka and announces, “‘Religious’ face coverings are putting American people at huge risk! We must not sacrifice national security to satisfy the demands of minorities. All face covering should be banned in every state across America.”

Another from the same account urges, “Kick Sharia out of America!”

The spots show the sophistication in mimicking ongoing movements, like an account called “Black Matters.” That spot drew 224,000 “likes.”

Another faux group, called Defend the 2nd, promoted the right to bear arms. Another, from a group called “Being Patriotic,” was for the rights of police officers.

A petition campaign, from an organization called “Donald Trump America,” calls for “disqualification and removal of Hillary Clinton from the presidential ballot as dynastic succession of the Clinton family in American politics breaches the core democratic principles laid out by our Founding Fathers.” It included a link to the White House’s We the People petition site.

Other spots are somewhat puzzling, like an ad featuring a buff Bernie Sanders from the group LGBT United. It pitched “Buff Bernie: A Coloring Book for Berniacs.

A fake group called “Heart of Texas” sponsored a spot on the border patrol, with the message, “Thanks to Obama’s and Hillary’s policy, illegals come here because they wait for amnesty promised. The wrong course had been chosen by the American government, but all those politicians are too far from the border to see who actually sneaks through it illegally.”

An Instagram sponsored post from a group called “American veterans” attacks “Killary Clinton,” while a group called Army of Jesus had a Facebook ad in which Jesus and Satan are arm wrestling. The message from Satan: “If I win, Clinton wins!” From Jesus: “Not if I can help it!” It urges users to press “like” to “help Jesus win!”