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Politics

Russian-bought Facebook election ads sought to exploit U.S. racial divides: report

In this Monday, June 4, 2012, file photo, a girl looks at Facebook on her computer in Palo Alto, Calif.
In this Monday, June 4, 2012, file photo, a girl looks at Facebook on her computer in Palo Alto, Calif. AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Facebook is getting ready to turn some 3,000 ads over to congressional investigators which will show how Russian-based operatives attempted to manipulate the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Washington Post reports the data will show how Russian operatives tried to exploit racial divides in the U.S.

READ MORE: Facebook, Google under pressure to regulate political ads: experts

For example, some of the ads were reported to be in support of Black Lives Matter just as others attempted to create a negative image of the African American rights groups.

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The Russians also attempted to create division among religious groups while some ads pointed to support for Democrat Hillary Clinton among Muslim women.

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“Their aim was to sow chaos,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the Washington Post. “In many cases, it was more about voter suppression rather than increasing turnout.”

READ MORE: Facebook to overhaul political ads, share some with U.S. Congress amid pressure

Facebook advertising allows advertisers to target messages to users based on everything from where they went to college to what their gender is to what their job is.

An advertiser can virtually pinpoint an ad to one particular person in some cases.

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Earlier this month, Facebook said a Russian troll farm  spent $100,000 on thousands of Facebook ads promoting divisive messages.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company was taking nine steps to prevent governments from using the network to interfere with each other’s elections.

READ MORE: Russian troll farm spent $100K on Facebook ads during the U.S. election

“I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That’s not what we stand for,” Zuckerberg said.

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Google and Facebook are set to take a combined 63 per cent of the U.S. advertising market this year, according to research firm eMarketer.

Google has said it has no evidence on its ad platform of a Russian propaganda campaign like the one Facebook found.

— With files from Reuters

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