Published: Thu, October 05, 2017
Industry | By Dora Warner

The Senate Intelligence Committee will not release Russian-bought Facebook ads

The Senate Intelligence Committee will not release Russian-bought Facebook ads

Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Mark Warner, D-Va., are set to announce an update on the committee's investigation, with Burr telling ABC News earlier this week that it will be "a detailed update".

Targeting two pivotal swing states with social-media ads suggests a degree of sophistication by Russian actors in one aspect of what the USA intelligence community has described as a widespread cyber-interference effort in the 2016 US campaign.

But he added that it "had hit a wall" in its efforts to talk to Christopher Steele, the former United Kingdom intelligence officer whose reports on allegations of active collusion involving Trump himself have become part of the continuing investigations being conducted by the Senate, House of Representatives, and the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort was interviewed, as was senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who also is Trump's son-in-law. CNN reported Tuesday that the ads targeted crucial swing states Wisconsin and MI.

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USA intelligence agencies concluded that Russian Federation interfered in the election to try to help Trump defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton through a campaign of hacking and releasing embarrassing emails and other propaganda efforts.

News of those 3,000 ads came a month after Facebook revealed it had discovered 450 accounts and about $100,000 in ad spending linked to Russian Federation on divisive issues during the US presidential campaign.

"I think at the end of the day it's important that the public see these ads", said Warner, the intelligence committee's vice chairman.

But Burr also told reporters that the committee had "hit a wall" in attempting to verify the details of a salacious dossier about Trump's alleged exploits in Russian Federation, mostly because its author, former British spy Christopher Steele, had rebuffed the committee's efforts to speak with him about his sources and who paid for the compilation of the report. Burr said that the committee would ideally finish the investigation before congressional primaries begin next spring, but said he couldn't put a firm deadline on the probe because they are always finding new lines of inquiry.

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"Reviewing ads means assessing not just the content of an ad, but the context in which it was bought and the intended audience - so we're changing our ads review system to pay more attention to these signals", the company said. He did not elaborate, except to say that the committee had not come to any conclusions and that the investigation is ongoing. Clearly if any of the social media platforms would like to do that, we're fine with them doing it because we've already got scheduled an open hearing.

Burr said the Russians had been "pretty darn successful" in fomenting chaos in the USA political system. And he said the role of social media in the Russian campaign is only beginning to be explored.

Warner also said that the Russian intelligence service activities did not end with the US presidential election on November 8 and that similar acts continued ahead of political elections in Montenegro, Belgium, France, and Germany. The president, however, has not said he believes them.

Russia Today, the Kremlin-backed television network, spent $274,000 on more than 1,800 tweets on Twitter's network that "definitely or potentially targeted the US market" during the 2016 presidential campaign, Twitter officials have also said.

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