As technology executives testified before Congress about Russian efforts to disrupt the 2016 election by exploiting social media, lawmakers released some of the online content that flowed from Russian-linked accounts.
Some 130 million Americans saw at least one of the posts disseminated by Russian actors, according to Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch, with the content’s spread amplified by paid advertisements.
While Facebook had said the ads sought to spread discord by widening social divides, it had not made the disputed content public. With Google, Twitter and Facebook in Washington DC, politicians finally released a sampling.
The pieces run the gamut, offering a snapshot of the dynamics at play in the 2016 election as they embrace alternate ends of contested issues. Some vilify Ms Clinton, the Democratic candidate, some laud her rival Bernie Sanders and at least one assails Republican Donald Trump. They operated under convincing-sounding names like United Muslims of America, Black Matters and Heart of Texas.
“My concern is that a dictator like Vladimir Putin uses flaws in our social media platforms to inject the worst kind of identity politics into the election," said Indiana's Democratic Senator Andre Carson.
He added that they “cynically mimicked” Americans.
Here’s a sampling.
Several of the posts target Ms Clinton, like this post linked to the sponsored “Army of Jesus” page. An intelligence assessment concluded that Russia “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton”.
Some of the posts buoyed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Ms Clinton's rival for the Democratic nomination
And at least one sought to foment disapproval of Mr Trump, like this advertisement launched shortly after he won the election.
Some advertisements sought to mimic the Black Lives Matter movement, which protests police violence against African-American men. This one used images of black men who were killed in police encounters and became symbols of the movement.
Demonstrating how Russian actors sought to whip up a furor around divisive issues, this ad took the side of Black Lives Matters skeptics who see the movement as anti-police - in this case, claiming an activist actually attacked officers. The 'Being Patriotic' page that posted this also created a fake “Miners for Trump' event, senators said.
Gun control, another divisive issue, surfaced in ads from decoy accounts like 'Defend the Second Amendment'. The following was posted to Instagram, a photo-sharing site owned by Facebook.
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