We recently reported that Facebook ads exploiting racial tensions in Ferguson and Baltimore were linked to Russia.
This week, 3,000+ Facebook ads purchased by 470 accounts owned by Russia’s Internet Research Agency were handed over to Congressional investigators.
One ad in particular is gaining a lot of attention: an ad featuring an armed black woman “dry firing” a rifle, which means pulling the trigger without a bullet in the chamber.
According to the Washington Post, investigators believe the ad was meant to encourage black militancy, both in hopes that black Americans would arm themselves to defend their rights with violence, and and inspire fear in white Americans that their black counterparts would begin to do so.
The ad, along with thousands of others (which included many featuring Hillary Clinton behind prison bars), were reportedly released in an effort to boost Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
“These ads are racist propaganda, pure and simple,” said Black Lives Matter Oakland activist Malkia Cyril, who also serves as executive director for the nonprofit Center for Media Justice. “Whether they appear to be in support or in opposition to black civil rights is irrelevant. Their aim is to subvert democracy for everyone by using anti-black stereotypes — an idea as old as America.”
Facebook is cooperating with Congress' investigation by providing ad targeting analytics.
“The big picture is that we’re stepping up tomorrow to help Congress understand foreign interference on the ad platform and to make improvements to the ad platform to enhance transparency,” said Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president for U.S. public policy. “We’re committed to doing our part to prevent this type of malicious interference.”
Facebook also confirmed they’ll be updating security measures in various ways, including developing a feature to make sure political organizations are certified legit before allowing them to purchase political ads.
The company also said they’ll be hiring thousands of ad reviewers in the upcoming months in connection with this issue as well as to help the firm monitor hate speech and violence/sexual content on its live video platform.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also recently announced that every group will have to publicly post copies of the political ads they have purchased. Previously ads would only be visible to the specific target group the purchaser selected.
Twitter has already shut down 201 suspicious Russian accounts, and Google is internally investigating Russian dealings as well.