The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee confirmed Monday that Facebook had turned over to congressional investigators the 3,000 ads that appeared to have been purchased by Kremlin-aligned Russian operatives and indicated that he would like for at least some of the ads to be made public by the end of this month in conjunction with an open hearing the committee is planning.
“Later this month, when our committee hears directly from tech firms in an open hearing, it’s my hope to make a representative sampling of these ads public at that time so we can inoculate the public against future Russian interference in our elections,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said in a statement “But I am also committed to making all of these ads public as soon as possible, working closely with Facebook to address any privacy considerations.”
Scrutiny over how social media was manipulated by Russia in its campaign to influence the 2016 election has increased since Facebook last month disclosed the existence of the 3,000 ads which had been purchased by some 470 inauthentic accounts apparently linked to a Kremlin-backed troll farm.
Facebook has also reportedly been cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and the Senate Intel Committee too is reviewing the ads as part of its own Russia probe. The Senate Intel Committee is planning its own open hearing, scheduled for Nov. 1, on how social media platforms were manipulated by Russia.
Already details have leaked about some of the Russian trolls’ Facebook activity, including posts that promoted anti-immigrant sentiments as well as ads that seemed to boost the Black Lives Matter movement.
Schiff’s statement Monday suggested that the House Intel Committee is interested not just in the content of the ads but the targeting techniques Russia used in promoting them.
“As we fully examine these ads in the coming days, we will be particularly interested in understanding their full reach, in particular to determine what groups and individuals were most heavily targeted and why,” Schiff said. “We will continue to work with Facebook and other tech companies to determine the full extent of Russia’s use of online platforms, including paid advertising, since what we now know may only scratch the surface.”