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House Democrats Release Over 3,500 Russia-Linked Facebook Ads

House Democrats released over 3,500 ads online Thursday that were purchased by Russia’s Internet Research Agency to interfere with U.S. politics. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that the release was meant to protect the U.S. from similar interference going forward. “Sunlight is always the best disinfectant,” Schiff said in a tweet.

The 3519 ads released by the Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee were purchased by the Internet Research Agency between early 2015 and late 2017. Some of the ads voice support for political candidates including President Trump as well as Bernie Sanders, while others oppose Trump, or support causes like Black Lives Matter and LGBT rights.

Russia sought to divide us by our race, our country of origin, our religion, and our politics,” said Schiff. “They attempted to hijack legitimate events meant to do good – teaching self-defense, providing legal aid – as well as those events meant to widen a rift.”

The link between these ads and Russia’s Internet Research Agency was first reported last fall, when Facebook acknowledged that the agency had spent about $100,000 in its attempts to boost its messages on the social network. Democrats had released a small subset of these ads last November.

Facebook also told lawmakers last year that more than 11.4 million people in the U.S. had been exposed to these ads. However, Russia’s disinformation campaign didn’t stop with paid content. Facebook pages linked to the Internet Research Agency also created around 80,000 regular posts, which are estimated to have reached more than 126 million Americans. House Democrats said Thursday that they planned to release these 80,000 posts in the future as well.

In a response to Thursday’s release, Facebook published a blog post that reiterated some of the steps the company is talking to prevent such abuse in the future. However, the post also acknowledged that the company could not completely rule out future disinformation campaigns: “This will never be a solved problem because we’re up against determined, creative and well-funded adversaries. But we are making steady progress.”

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