Report: Some Russian Facebook ads were meant to aggravate racial, religious divides

Some of the 3,000 Facebook ads purchased by Russians during the presidential election -- and about to be submitted to Congress -- suggest a certain sophistication about the racial and social divides that exist in the U.S., The Washington Post reported Monday.

Some of the Russian ads promote black rights groups like Black Lives Matter, while others point to groups like this as politically threatening, according to the Post, which cited people familiar with the influence campaign.

Further, the Russians also tried to aggravate religious divides, too, with some showing Muslim women supporting Hillary Clinton, the Post reported. At some points during the campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump called for Muslims to be banned from entering the U.S.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last week that his company would soon be sharing the ads with government investigators, in order to help them in their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The top Democrat on House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday that the Russian ads weren't only "to help Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but more fundamentally, to divide Americans, to pit one American against another on some very divisive issues."

It was, he told host John Dickerson, "the kind of cynical campaign you would expect of having a KGB operative running a country." He also suggested that digital ad were but one platform and method the Russians used on social media. 

"There's a lot we don't know about yet," he continued.

Schiff suggested that the Russians were able to exploit Facebook's algorithms in a way that potentially reinforced users' information bias. The example he cited was a user who might be interested in Hillary Clinton's health -- there were some false stories that implied or said outright that Clinton was in ill health during the campaign. The algorithms, Schiff said, could result in an effect in which "you're seeing a lot more stories about Hillary Clinton's health and reinforce a misperception or inaccurate information." 

The intent, though, the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner, said, was "more about voter suppression" than increasing turnout.

Facebook revealed earlier this month that it had found Russian-linked interests had purchased $100,000 in ads through phony accounts.