Facebook Hands Over 3K Russia-Linked Ads to Congress

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Facebook is prepared to hand over more than 3,000 Russia-linked ads to Congress.

Earlier this month, the social networkrevealed it sold advertising space during the 2016 presidential election to a Russian “troll farm” with a history of promoting pro-Kremlin propaganda.

Now—two weeks after providing ad content to the Special Counsel probing allegations of electoral interference—Facebook will also share private details with congressional investigators.

“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,” the firm’s general counsel Colin Stretch wrote 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.”

According to Facebook, some 470 “inauthentic” accounts and Pages (“likely operated out of Russia”) spent approximately $100,000 on 3,000 ads between June 2015 and May 2017. A handful of them, as reported by The Washington Post , directly named then-nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

“This has been a difficult decision,” Stretch said. “Disclosing content is not something we do lightly under any circumstances. We are deeply committed to safeguarding user content, regardless of the user’s nationality, and ads are user content.”

It’s not really a question of whether the Kremlin interfered in the election: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence in January stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin “ordered an influence campaign” to discredit Clinton, and “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process.”

The real concern is whether Russia helped to spread misinformation and influence how Americans voted.

Facebook came under fire last fall for allowing what many considered false news to run rampant on the popular platform—a criticism CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed as being “a pretty crazy idea.”

Now, fresh off of paternity leave, Zuck on Thursday expounded on his company’s “next steps,” reminding the public that Facebook’s mission “is all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together.”

The firm has already cracked down on bogus content by introducing new reporting functions and launching coalitions ; it recently took action against fake accounts in France and Germany, and no longer allows Pages that repeatedly share fraudulent stories.

Moving forward, Facebook will continue working with the U.S. government, while pursuing its own investigation; changes to advertising—more transparency, a stronger review process—will also go into effect.

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