Russia

Facebook Will Hand Over Thousands of Russian Election Ads

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Under threat of possible subpoena, Facebook has agreed to hand over copies of every ad purchased by fake accounts that were traced back to Russian buyers.

In total, Facebook is expected to hand over approximately 3,000 ads.

Facebook Inc. said it will give Congress information on the political ads bought by Russians to sow discord ahead of the U.S. presidential election, and vowed to publicly disclose more details on this marketing in the future. [...]

“The public deserves a full accounting of what happened in the 2016 election, and we’ve concluded that sharing the ads we’ve discovered, in a manner that is consistent with our obligations to protect user information, can help,” Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel, said in a blog post.

Copies of some of the ads traced back to Russian buyers were shared online last week after they were initially provided to special prosecutor Robert Mueller, but that was only a handful of the 3,000 ads Facebook will turn over to Congress.

Regardless of what Congress officially decides to do with the ads, I expect the leaks will begin in earnest once congressional staffers get a look at them. But I don't necessarily expect Democratic members of Congress and their staff will be the only ones doing the leaking because I expect some portion of the 3,000 ads will also include left wing anti-Clinton messages that Republicans will want to highlight.

Put simply, I expect we'll learn that most of the ads were directed at and shared by conservative voters, but some will have also been shared by liberals. Hillary Clinton was smeared from virtually every angle in 2016.

If Congress is reluctant to release a detailed accounting of the ads to the public, it could be because some of them and their own staffers shared the ads during the election.

  • Christopher Foxx

    Put simply, I expect we’ll learn that most of the ads were directed at and shared by conservative voters, but some will have also been shared by liberals.

    It could be 95% Republican smear ads lying about Clinton and 5% liberal ads pointing out Trump’s lies, and the Bernie-bots will still cry “See! Both parties are exactly the same!!!”

  • Villemar

    MZ definitely isn’t running for President. No, not at all! And besides, even if he did, what could possibly go wrong???

    http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Zuckerberg-president-2020-election-facebook-12216811.php

  • 1933john

    Facebook needs to be renamed: “Scuttlebutt”

  • muselet

    [Mark Zuckerberg] said he will add 250 employees to work on election integrity and make political ads on Facebook more transparent. For example, users will be able to visit an advertiser’s page and see all the other political ads they’re running to other audiences on the social network. Meanwhile, the company will work more closely with election officials and other technology companies to share information on any troubling marketing campaigns.

    All well and good. We’ll have to wait and see if Facebook treats this, long-term, with any more seriousness than it treats its users’ privacy. My guess is no, but I’m willing to be convinced I’m wrong.

    –alopecia

    • Good news, at least for Germany–Facebook has been working closely with them to ensure lack of interference via ads and so far, so good.

      • muselet

        BBC News pointed out this morning that Facebook’s reliance on algorithms for its advertising means a lack of oversight by anyone in the company. It’s not a problem that can be easily solved.

        On the other hand, that is good news about Germany (lucky Germans).

        –alopecia

        • No, the algorithms are for shit. They didn’t program in any filtering for inappropriate ads (Slate article???). It was pure laziness. Ideally they would have algorithms AND human oversight. It appears in Germany they have added the human oversight but I still don’t know what coding adjustments they’ve made. Facebook owes Americans proof and reassurance that they are addressing the problems.

          • Christopher Foxx

            Facebook owes Americans proof and reassurance

            Or, or people could just not feel obligated to use Facebook.

  • Georgie

    “If Congress is reluctant to release a detailed accounting of the ads to
    the public, it could be because some of them and their own staffers
    shared the ads during the election.”
    Who cares, everyone on Facebook shared them let get the word out so we are informed.

    • JMAshby

      To be clear, I’m not implying that it’s a valid reason, it’s just a suspicion of mine.

      • Georgie

        One I agree with.. and thanks for this site, love the writing and comments, I have learned so much.

  • ninjaf

    There is no user privacy for Facebook to protect. These ads were produced by accounts deemed by Facebook to be fraudulent &emdash; there are no users to protect. The only reason not to share them is because reasons. We need to see specifics so that the people who shared them relentlessly (from the left and right) can see that they were preyed upon and learn from the experience because they are coming for us again. This needs to be made a matter of patriotism and national pride.

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