Diving Into the Russian Social Media Ads

Russian President Vladimir Putin superimposed into a Russian Flag. Image by Lenny Ghoul.

Administrative Note: You may have noticed this is the normal time slot for Lenny’s Polls Open Thread. Unfortunately, due to reaching a point where our visions for the site do not match, Lenny has decided to step away from the operation of TNB. We hope that he will continue to be a valued member of the TNB community. In the meantime, MrsMaryLou has agreed to take us on a journey through the Russian shenanigans of disrupting our elections and dividing our nation.

We’ve known about the Russian-sponsored ads on social media for a long time. While most of the focus is on the preference for Donald Trump, first during the primaries and then during the general election, he was not the sole focus. The House of Representatives’ Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence found that the main motive was to sow discord among Americans. They wouldn’t have to do a thing to destroy the nation if we were willing to wage war against each other. Part of being able to stop this intellectual invasion is knowing it’s there. By re-examining what was used to divide us before, we can be aware the next time those tools are used against us in the future.

All Facebook-purchased ads are available to the public and can be downloaded here.

The ads list which interest categories the ads were targeted towards. If you are curious what categoreis Facebook placed you in, you can find directions to look that up here.

I wanted to see what kinds of ads they were showing this time of year. While the files go back to 2015, the first January/February ads were for 2016. Here’s a sampling taken from the 2016 file, first group.

Please note the images will have extra space as they are how the documents appear. You will find the file number at the bottom of each page (for those playing along at home).

As I’m going through these ads, it becomes apparent they played all sides of the issues. Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, no lives mattered, really. The most important thing was to keep us fighting.

The second ad placed in 2016 wasn’t nearly as incendiary, but made me pause:

One can only wonder if the Trump camp was aware his catch-phrase was being used like this.

I will share more interesting ads I come across in other posts. For now, enjoy this Open Thread and remember, we can beat the Russians by not hating one another.

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