The Latest: Congress releases Russia-linked Facebook ads

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The Latest on Russian use of Facebook, Twitter and Google to try to influence the 2016 U.S. election (all times local):

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7 p.m.

A trove of Facebook ads made public by Congress depicts Russia's extraordinary cyber intrusion into American life in 2016.

The ads, seen by vast numbers of people, were aimed at upending the nation's democratic debate and fomenting discord over such disparate issues as immigration, gun control and politics.

The few dozen ads are a small sampling of the roughly 3,000 Russian-connected ones that Facebook has identified and turned over to Congress.

They were released Wednesday amid two consecutive days of tough and sometimes caustic questioning by House and Senate lawmakers about why social media giants hadn't done more to combat Russian interference on their sites.

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U.S. intelligence services say the Russian use of social media was part of a broad effort to sway the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.

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6:15 p.m.

Apple CEO Tim Cook weighed in on the grilling his high-tech colleagues got by congressional investigators this week — saying fake news, and manipulation campaigns were a bigger deal than simply ads bought by foreign governments.

In an interview with NBC's Lester Holt to air Wednesday evening, Cook said he believes ads bought by state actors are "point-one percent of the issue" and the larger problem remains "that some of these tools are used to divide people, to manipulate people, to get fake news to people in broad numbers, and so, to influence their thinking."

Lawyers from Facebook, Google and Twitter were harshly questioned by lawmakers in three separate public hearings Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington.

Cook spoke ahead of the Friday release of the iPhone X (pronounced "ten"). While Apple also sells ads and distributes content through Apple News, it makes most of its money from sales of iPhones.

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5 p.m.

A Democrat on the House intelligence committee says Tuesday's attack on a New York City bike path shows there is still misinformation promoted on social media platforms.

Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley said If you clicked on the trending topic "New York City terrorist attack" on Twitter, the top link was from the website Infowars. That site is run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Quigley said it was a "real-time example" of misinformation being weaponized.

Sean Edgett, Twitter's general counsel, said the system corrected the link but he doesn't know how long it was at the top. He said it was "a bad user experience and we don't want to be known for that."

Eight people were killed when the attacker drove a rented truck onto the bike path near the World Trade Center memorial.

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4:30 p.m.

A member of the House intelligence committee is challenging Facebook on its diversity.

Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell says members of the Congressional Black Caucus visited Facebook's California headquarters last month. She suggests it will be hard for the company to monitor for ads from Russia that try to stoke racial tensions if employees at the company aren't diverse.

In the U.S., 3 percent of Facebook's workforce is black. Sewell said Wednesday the company should make sure it is not "adding to the problem," and asked the company's general counsel, Colin Stretch, if she should trust those vetting the ads are a diverse work force.

Stretch said the company understands the importance of diversity.

Many of the more than 3,000 Russia-linked ads that Facebook has turned over to the panel attempt to stoke racial tensions from all sides.

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4:10 p.m.

Documents released by House lawmakers show that Russian-linked organizations buying Facebook ads weren't always successful in getting their message seen.

One pro-Bernie Sanders ad from a group purportedly called the "United Muslims of America" was narrowly targeted — to those who already follow that group, as well as their friends. Consequently, the ad got just 11 views, and no one clicked it.

Because Facebook charges based on the number of views, the ad cost less than six rubles (10 cents).

Payment was through Qiwi, a Moscow-based payment provider. The company's website says Qiwi aims to serve "the new generation in Russia" and former Soviet republics.

The ads were released Wednesday as representatives of leading social media companies faced criticism on Capitol Hill about why they hadn't done more to combat Russian interference on their sites and prevent foreign agents from meddling in last year's election.

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3:45 p.m.

The House intelligence committee is only releasing a sampling of the more than 3,000 ads that Facebook has turned over to the panel.

Texas Rep. Mike Conaway, the Republican leading the committee's probe into Russian interference, has said the committee will release the ads. But Conaway only released five ads on Wednesday as the panel grilled representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google. Committee Democrats released around two dozen more.

In a memo, the committee Democrats said the panel is working to "scrub personally identifiable information" so they can release the ads.

The ads released by Conaway were all paid for in Russian rubles and directed users to pages that targeted different groups: "Blactivist," ''Woke blacks," ''South United," ''Being Patriotic" and "Back the Badge."

The ads received between 32,000 and 73,000 clicks.

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3:30 p.m.

The release of a trove of Facebook ads bought by a Russian firm show a clear attempt to target the information to certain audiences.

The release included details on ad placements and spending. In one case, one of the ads — a video parodying Donald Trump — targeted blacks who also are interested in BlackNews.com, HuffPost Politics or HuffPost Black Voices. It was shown 716 times and got 42 clicks.

The ads were released Wednesday as representatives of leading social media companies faced criticism on Capitol Hill about why they hadn't done more to combat Russian interference on their sites and prevent foreign agents from meddling in last year's election.

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2:40 p.m.

Lawmakers have released troves of Facebook ads linked to a Russian internet agency and meant to influence American public opinion.

The ads were released Wednesday as officials from Facebook and other social media companies faced criticism for not doing enough to prevent Russian agents from interfering with the American political process. Many of the ads purchased during the 2016 election focused on divisive social issues like immigration and gay rights.

In preparation for hearings this week, Facebook disclosed that content generated by a Russian group, the Internet Research Agency, potentially reached as many as 126 million users. Facebook had earlier turned over more than 3,000 advertisements linked to that group.

Twitter also disclosed that it has uncovered and shut down 2,752 accounts linked to the same group.

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12:25 p.m.

Lawmakers are demanding answers from leading social media companies about why they haven't done more to combat Russian interference on their sites.

One Democrat says congressional action might be needed in response to what she calls "the start of cyberwarfare" against American democracy.

Representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google have struggled at times to defend themselves against complaints they didn't act quickly or thoroughly enough as it became evident that Russians used the sites to try to influence the 2016 U.S. election.

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee says his questions about the interference were "blown off" by the companies until this summer.