- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The FBI’s official Facebook page quietly started running paid advertisements on the platform soliciting assistance from potential Russian assets, a report revealed Wednesday.

Three digital ads bought recently by the FBI’s official Facebook account contain Russian language “seemingly designed to target and recruit Russian spies,” CNN first reported.

All three of the ads are for the FBI’s counterintelligence program in D.C., and each features a different image that has been overlaid with Russian text, according to versions accessible through Facebook’s public Ads Archive. They each began running on Sept. 11, and they each refer to an official FBI website that contains details about the counterintelligence program in both English and Russian.

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One of the ads shows a young woman in a graduation gown alongside Russian text that roughly translates to “For your future, for the future of your family.” Another shows a chessboard in black-and-white beneath the Russian words for, “Isn’t it time for you to make your move?” The third contains an image of a man walking with an umbrella alongside the Russian text for “Time [to] build bridges.

The ads direct to an FBI page that says in English and Russian that the bureau’s counterintelligence program is dedicated to protecting Americans “through the detection, identification, and neutralization of hostile foreign intelligence activities,” and it includes information about how to contact the D.C. field office from where it is run. They recently began being displayed to Facebook users logged on from around D.C., according to CNN. 

“We cannot comment except to note that Russia has a large number of intelligence officers based in Russian diplomatic facilities around the world. They are very active and pose a security risk to the US and our allies,” Alan E. Kohler Jr., FBI special agent in charge of the D.C. field office’s counterintelligence division, told CNN.

“The FBI uses a variety of means to gather information, including the use of sources,” he told CNN, the network reported. “The FBI will use all legal means available to locate individuals with information that can help protect the United States from threats to our national security.”

Russia notoriously used Facebook ads during the course of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, federal officials previously concluded. The Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based “troll farm” financed by an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, bought ads on Facebook and other platforms to amplify disinformation and other content created as part of what the Department of Justice has called a “sweeping and systematic” attempt by Moscow to meddle in the race.

Multiple social networks subsequently revised their advertising policies in response to Russian election meddling, including Facebook’s decision in March to make all ads accessible through its public Ads Archive.

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