A few of the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee berated the lawyers for social media companies Facebook, Twitter, and Alphabet, for their lackluster responses to Russian interference in the U.S. political election in 2016, in the second day of testimonies in Congress. Many senators, however, seemed skeptical of the power and influence that companies like Facebook could have over the U.S. electorate.
The Intelligence Committee didn’t just focus on Russian-backed advertising, they also questioned the extent to which unpaid posts and articles were used in an effort to manipulate opinion in the U.S. and to create division.
Facebook has turned over to Congress more than 3,000 ads from Russian sources, and Twitter has found thousands of fake accounts that have now been removed.
It isn’t known whether or not—or to what extent—these ads, tweets, and posts had any influence on voter opinion, but either way, these tech companies are in a bit of a pickle. Either the ads worked and they are responsible for influencing the outcome of the election, or they didn’t work, in which cases their pitch to advertisers becomes a bit more difficult.
As Facebook’s general council, Colin Stretch, said, “We’re not well-positioned to judge why any one person or an entire electorate voted as it did.”
Below are a few of the ads identified as having Russian-backing.
This “Down With Hillary!” event was advertised as a sponsored post on the Facebook community “Being Patriotic.” The post saw 763 reactions, and data states that the ad was targeted to people interested in “Donald Trump,” “Donald Trump for President,” or “Donald Trump Jr.” The ad got 1,312 clicks and 15,255 impressions.
Another sponsored post the the “Being Patriotic” Facebook community shows 1.2K reactions, 376 shares, 82 comments, and data indicates there were 761 clicks on the ad and the ad impressions clocked in at 3,362.
This sponsored ad to the “Blacktivist” Facebook community reached 6.2K reactions, 29K shares. The data released with the ad says that it was targeted to people interested in “Human rights,” “African-American culture,” or “Malcolm X.” The ad received over 13K clicks and 289,781 impressions.
This tweet features a photoshopped image of actor and comedian Aziz Ansari encouraging voters to submit their vote via Twitter, which, of course, isn’t a legitimate way to vote in U.S. elections. Twitter couldn’t say how many people may have tried to vote via twitter, but did say they took down this tweet “and all other tweets like it.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal decried it as “a deliberate misleading of people.”
This Facebook ad depicting Jesus arm-wrestling the devil—who’s on Hillary Clinton’s side—got 97 reactions and 29 shares.
This sponsored ad on Facebook by “Donald Trump America” shows 3.9K reactions. It had 34,943 impressions and 6,276 clicks, and the ad called for the removal of Hillary Clinton from the ballot.