New descriptions of the Russian-bought ads shared with CNN suggest that the apparent goal of the Russian buyers was to amplify political discord and fuel an atmosphere of incivility and chaos, though not necessarily to promote one candidate or cause over another. Facebook’s review of Russian efforts on its platform focused on a timeframe from June 2015 to May 2017.
These ranged from posts promoting Black Lives Matter to posts promoting gun rights and the Second Amendment to posts warning about what they said was the threat undocumented immigrants posed to American democracy. Beyond the election, Russians have sought to raise questions about western democracies.
“This is consistent with the overall goal of creating discord inside the body politic here in the United States, and really across the West,” Steve Hall, the former CIA officer and CNN National Security Analyst, said. “It shows they the level of sophistication of their targeting. They are able to sow discord in a very granular nature, target certain communities and link them up with certain issues.”
The Internet Research Agency is a shadowy agency that U.S. military intelligence has described as “a state-funded organization that blogs and tweets on behalf of the Kremlin.” A senior Kremlin spokesman said last week that Russia did not buy ads on Facebook to influence the election.