After handing over more than 3,000 Russia-linked ads to congressional investigators on Monday (2 October), Facebook has highlighted the specifics of the ads, including the fact that they reached an estimated 10 million Americans. Elliot Schrage, Facebook's vice-president of policy and communications, said in a blog post that the company used a modelling approach to "approximate the number of unique people ("reach") who saw at least one of these ads".
Schrage noted that most of the ads the company disclosed focused on "divisive social and political messages", covering issues about race, immigration, gun rights, and LGBT matters. The ads appeared to encourage people to follow pages on such issues.
The disclosure comes as Facebook continues to draw flak over the ads a Russia-based organisation bought from it leading up to and after the US presidential elections.
Though Facebook traced nearly 500 pages and accounts that bought the ads for around $100,000 (£745,744) back to Russia, Moscow has denied any involvement. Half of the ads were purchased for less than $3 (£2.2), while 1% was bought for over $1,000 (£745), according to the latest disclosure by the company.
Facebook said nearly 44% of the ads were seen before the 2016 US presidential election, while 56% were displayed after the election. Approximately 25% of the ads were not shown to anyone "because advertising auctions are designed so that ads reach people based on relevance, and certain ads may not reach anyone as a result".
The Washington Post reported that one of the ads turned over to investigators showed a black woman firing a rifle with no bullet, while another had images of Hillary Clinton behind bars. The full content of the ads is yet to be revealed publicly.
Schrage believes that there might be more contentious ads which the company hasn't yet detected. "We're still looking for abuse and bad actors on our platform — our internal investigation continues," he said. The company is working with Congress, the Special Counsel (who is looking into all matters relating to possible Russian influence on the elections) and its tech industry partners, including Twitter and Google, on the investigation.