Russian ads, now publicly released, show sophistication of influence campaign

"Technology lawyer Albert Gidari, director of privacy at the Stanford University Center for Internet and Society, said that in turning over the ads, companies were entering complex legal territory. Ads have long been considered private data on par with email content and other records that the government must have a search warrant to obtain, he said.

That includes ads published by foreign governments or even terrorists. The tech companies, he said, had probably made the calculation in this case that the risk of subjecting themselves to the ire of lawmakers and potential regulation was worse than the risk of being sued by Russians, but the negative consequences of that choice could be felt down the road.

“These are huge mistakes with consequences that far outweigh the benefits because they make us feel better about how Russians interfered in the election,” Gidari said. “It turns the platforms into agents of the U.S. government to decide what people should like or not like, read or not read. This is bad policy in the U.S. and even worse abroad.”"