Earlier this week, Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, revealed that Russia had “likely” used 470 deceptive accounts to buy about $100,000 worth of political advertising before and after the 2016 presidential election. It was Facebook’s first public acknowledgment of the role it unwittingly played in the Kremlin’s “active measures” campaign to help elect Donald Trump. Based on the numbers, a Facebook marketing expert consulted by The Daily Beast says the Facebook run might have reached 70 million people.
The admission was a sharp turnaround for Facebook. As recently as July, the company was denying that it had evidence of Russian ad-buys, even though four months earlier the Russian news outlet RBC specifically identified one of the Facebook communities secretly run from Russia and promoted with paid Facebook ads.
That community, called SecuredBorders, positioned itself as the work of conservative Americans concerned about U.S. border security. In truth, according to RBC, it was operated by a notorious St. Petersburg troll factory called Internet Research Agency, which is financed by “a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence,” according to a public report by U.S. intelligence agencies (PDF).
Facebook finally closed down the page last month in its belated purge of Russian propaganda. By then SecuredBorders had 133,000 followers.
So far, Facebook is refusing to release any of the posts and ads from Russia’s campaign, opting instead for this terse description: “The ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum—touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”
That sanitary language doesn’t do justice to the actual content. The Daily Beast scoured search engine caches and found remains from the now-shuttered SecuredBorders page, just one of Russia’s propaganda communities, including dozens of their posts and graphics. Here’s a collection of the Russian Facebook memes we recovered.