Facebook to share ads linked to Russia with Congress

Facebook said Thursday it will share more than 3,000 ads linked to Russia with congressional investigators looking into whether the country meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“Facebook’s mission is all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a live video broadcast on the social network. “Those are deeply democratic values and we’re proud of them. I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That’s not what we stand for.”

The tech firm had faced mounting pressure from U.S. lawmakers to reveal more about how Russians may have used the social media site to interfere in the presidential election.

This month, Facebook revealed that fake accounts and pages that likely have ties to Russia spent $100,000 on divisive political ads from June 2015 to May 2017, which included the U.S. presidential election cycle.

A total of 470 fake accounts and pages ran roughly 3,000 ads during that period. Facebook said those accounts appear to have ties to a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency.

“We believe it is vitally important that government authorities have the information they need to deliver to the public a full assessment of what happened in the 2016 election,” said Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel, in a blog post. “That is an assessment that can be made only by investigators with access to classified intelligence and information from all relevant companies and industries — and we want to do our part.”

The tech firm said it isn’t releasing the ads to the public because federal law restricts it from disclosing Facebook account information.

Facebook, which has been criticized for not doing enough to combat fake news during the election, also vowed to do more to protect election integrity.

That included working with the U.S. government on the Russian investigation, allowing users to visit an advertiser’s page and see what ads they’re running, strengthening the company’s review for political ads and other efforts.

The tech firm is adding more than 250 people to its safety and security teams and will double the workers focused on election integrity, Zuckerberg said.

Facebook, which has more than 2 billion users, was criticized for not doing enough to combat fake news during the presidential election.

Russian officials have denied meddling in the presidential election. But the U.S. intelligence community released a report in January that stated it had “high confidence” that the Russian government tried to help Trump get elected.

While Zuckerberg noted that the amount of content on Facebook meant to interfere with the election is relatively small, he also said that any attempted interference is a serious issue.

“I wish I could tell you we’re going to be able to stop all interference, but that wouldn’t be realistic,” he said. “There will always be bad people in the world, and we can’t prevent all governments from all interference. But we can make it harder. We can make it a lot harder. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

Photo: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2015. (Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images)


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