The photo shows a service member’s spouse weeping over her husband’s flag-draped casket, under a headline quoting an out of context snippet of Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi testimony: “What Difference Does It Make.” The ad, promoted by an Instagram account named “american.veterans,” displays a caption reading, “Killary Clinton will never understand what it feels like to lose the person you love for the sake of your country.” If you spent much time on social media last fall—especially as a service member or veteran—you may have seen a series of strange, emotional, and personally targeted political ads like this one.
The ads, part of the widespread Russian influence operation to defeat Hillary Clinton, were released this week by the House Intelligence Committee following the testimony of representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google. The Russian ad campaign, which in the case of Facebook alone may have reached 146 million Americans, was designed to worsen growing divisions among Americans. The ad-buys were also absurdly economical, costing as little as 0.14 cents per user reached (that’s right, a fraction of a penny). Often targeting both sides of a single issue, the Russian-backed accounts used acerbic rhetoric to inflame tensions and widen divisions over race, religion, and politics.
Read the full op-ed in Slate.