Russian Facebook Ads - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

In late November, Congress released a handful of the more than 3,000 Russian-bought Facebook and Instagram ads that ran during the 2016 presidential election, and Facebook plans to let people know if they were taken in by any of them. Experts say that the ads pushed Trump as the “only viable option.”

Facebook revealed that it sold more than $100,000 in ads to fake accounts linked to the Russian government, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the social media giant would work with Congress to “make it much harder” for foreign government to use social media to interfere with any country’s elections.

“We are in a new world,” Zuckerberg said. “It is a new challenge for internet communities to deal with nation-states attempting to subvert elections. But if that’s what we must do, we are committed to rising to the occasion.”

You can see the ads for yourself here and here, which are indistinguishable from ads and posts shared every day across Facebook and Instagram. Some served just to start arguments, while others specifically targeted then-candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

The ads continued after the election, and even after President Trump took office, causing many experts to speculate that their intended purpose wasn’t just to sway the election but to create a wider gap between U.S. citizens that’s going to be tough to repair.

According to Facebook, “While information operations may sometimes employ the use of false narratives or false news as tools, they are certainly not one and the same. On its own, false news exists in a vacuum. With deliberately coordinated amplification through social networks, however, it can transform into information operations.”

What Do You Think?

Did you come across any ads like these before or after the election? Can you tell the difference between these and everyday posts that people create every day? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Russia’s ad-buying habits and whether you think they affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino