By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– U.S. intelligence agencies said Russians used social media to influence the 2016 election in markets such as Baltimore and Ferguson.

Three internet giants: Facebook, Twitter and Google have bowed to public pressure. They’re now sharing how Russia infiltrated and abused their platforms.

Wednesday, lawmakers on Capitol Hill grilled representatives from all three companies.

Facebook revealed that Russians paid for ads that featured Freddie Gray. The goal was to stir up racial tensions in markets like Baltimore and Ferguson.

“I’m not surprised at all,” said cyber expert Steven Taormino of CC&A Strategic Media. He said the Russians’ methods were simple, but extremely effective before and after the presidential election.

“These ads were really divisive and the whole idea was to further separate our communities and cause people to almost have a hatred towards one another,” Taormino said.

Facebook revealed that ads from a Russian group potentially reached 126 million users and at least 3,000 ads were linked to the group.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have been in the hot seat for not doing enough to stop the Russian-generated ads from taking root on social media.

“You cannot allow what is going on against the United States of America,” said Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia (R).

While ads have been scrubbed from the social media platforms, Taormino said the Russian intrusion in the American system should be enough to put the companies on notice.

“Then comes a situation like is happening now and someone learns how to abuse that technology, so now they realize we have to do something, otherwise, no one will trust our services,” he said.

Taormino says the responsibility shouldn’t just be on the big companies to watch for and then weed out bad ads. He said users need to also be critical of what they’re reading and the source.

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