U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Russia “developed a clear preference” for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and “used trolls, as well as RT, as part of its influence efforts to denigrate Secretary Clinton.” So the 3,400 Russia-linked Facebook ads released on Thursday by Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee might be expected to feature overtly pro-Trump or anti-Clinton messages.

Some do, but most do not, as The Washington Post's Tony Romm explains:

In many cases, the Kremlin-tied ads took multiple sides of the same issue. Accounts like United Muslims of America urged viewers in New York in March 2016 to “stop Islamophobia and the fear of Muslims.” That same account, days later, crafted an open letter in another ad that accused Clinton of failing to support Muslims before the election. And other accounts linked to the [Kremlin-sponsored Internet Research Agency] sought to target Muslims: One ad highlighted by the House Intelligence Committee called President Barack Obama a “traitor” who had acted as a “pawn in the hands of Arabian Sheikhs.”

At face value, the both-sides nature of the Facebook ads would seem to undermine the intelligence community's assessment that Russia favored Trump. Just last month, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee contended in their own report on Kremlin interference that Russia tried to sow discord among American voters but did not attempt to boost Trump's candidacy.

It is important to remember that social media advertisements were just one piece of Russia's interference campaign. The intelligence agencies noted that their judgments of Russia's aims were based on multiple indicators, including the views and activities of political figures and state news outlets.

But even Facebook ads that are not explicitly pro-Trump may have been designed to help him. For example, Russia crafted ads to represent both sides of immigration debates, but simply promoting immigration as a leading issue in the election could have worked to Trump's advantage. Trump won voters who identified immigration as the top issue in the race 2 to 1 over Clinton, according to exit polling.

A recurring theme in the ads is social and economic unrest. Trump benefited from voters who felt uneasy about the state of the country. He beat Clinton, 68 to 26 percent, among voters who said the country was on the wrong track; 63-31, among voters who said life for the next generation of Americans will be worse than today; and 62-31, among voters who called the condition of the national economy poor.

Some ads also sought to damage faith in the American political process. Among voters who said they were not confident in the vote count, Trump won, 65 to 26 percent.

None of this means the Russian Facebook ads caused the results reflected in exit polls. The impact cannot be measured and could have been negligible.

The point is that Russia may have tried to aid Trump in Facebook ads that do not mention any candidate but that play on emotions or emphasize issues that align with Trump's appeal. And the concern, of course, is that Russia could become more effective, with practice.