Russia reportedly targeted Fox host Sean Hannity's fans in its social media propaganda campaign

Theo Wargo/Getty ImagesSean Hannity.
  • A Kremlin-backed organisation purchased ads on Facebook and Instagram during the 2016 presidential campaign to push contentious messages to a wide range of voters, including fans of Fox News host Sean Hannity and Black Lives Matter supporters, according to NBC News.
  • The ads that targeted the pages for fans of Hannity often displayed anti-immigrant messages.
  • Facebook reportedly received roughly $US100,000 from the Kremlin-backed organisation to run the ads.

A Kremlin-backed organisation purchased ads on Facebook and Instagram during the 2016 presidential campaign to push contentious messages to a wide range of voters, including fans of Fox News host Sean Hannity and Black Lives Matter supporters, according to NBC News.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released thousands of the ads, which were orchestrated by the Internet Research Agency, the Russia-backed organisation.

The ads touched on divisive political issues, including police brutality, immigration, and LGBTQ issues. Facebook statistics show nearly four million users clicked on these ads as they were spread across social media from 2015 to 2017. The ads that targeted the pages for fans of Hannity often displayed anti-immigrant messages.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House committee, said Thursday he hoped releasing the ads would help Americans become more vigilant against the influence of foreign adversaries and more sceptical of the information they encounter on the internet.

“By exposing these Russian-created Facebook advertisements, we hope to better protect legitimate political expression and safeguard Americans from having the information they seek polluted by foreign adversaries,” Schiff tweeted. “Sunlight is always the best disinfectant.”

Schiff shared a number of examples of the ads on Twitter, tweeting, “Russia sought to weaponize social media to drive a wedge between Americans, and in an attempt to sway the 2016 election… Here’s how.”

Facebook reportedly received roughly $US100,000 from the Kremlin-backed organisation to run the ads.

Appearing before Congress in April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg conceded his company did not do enough to protect Americans from Russia’s disinformation campaign.

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,”Zuckerberg said at the time.

Zuckerberg told Congress that the Internet Research Agency reached 126 million people via Facebook and 20 million people via Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, with its divisive content.

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