Facebook turning over suspected Russian political ad buys to Congress

Posted September 23, 2017

By turning the Russian ads over to Congress, Facebook has opened itself to future challenges around its internal data.

On Thursday, Facebook's general counsel Colin Stretch said in a statement: "After an extensive legal and policy review, today we are announcing that we will also share these ads with congressional investigators".

Facebook's disclosure September 6 that Russian agents covertly bought ads on the site during last year's presidential campaign drew intense scrutiny on the social network and Twitter, entangling both companies in the investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and raising the possibility of future regulation of political advertising on their platforms.

Facebook has briefed congressional investigators about the ads, and it has provided the ad content to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

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On Facebook Live, founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said: "I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity", adding that he did not want anyone using his platform's tools to undermine democracy. As part of this co-operation it will share information about 3,000 political advertisements linked to Russian Federation with investigators.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Thursday that the company is cutting down on efforts people make to use the social media site to interfere with elections in the USA or anywhere. "We don't check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don't think our society should want us to", Zuckerberg said.

"That's not what we stand for", he said.

The legislation would require digital platforms with 1 million or more users to maintain the file of electioneering communications purchased by a group or person spending more than $10,000 on online political ads.

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For now, Facebook has turned related details over to Robert Mueller, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director leading the US government's probe into potential Russian interference, as well as House and Senate lawmakers similarly investigating the matter.

In an early-morning tweet, Trump said the "ads of Facebook" were part of the hoax, and asked about "dishonest Media coverage" towards his campaign rival, Hillary Clinton. "We may find more, and if we do, we will continue to work with the government".

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you we're going to catch all bad content in our system. The integrity of our elections is fundamental to democracy around the world". We can make it a lot harder.

Transparency in political ads (and the other steps Facebook is taking) will become more and more important as time goes on.

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Twitter is much smaller than Facebook in terms of users and the scale of business it conducts, but it's also highly visible in key areas - and the favorite tool for celebrities and other high-profile people, including the president of the United States, to talk directly with their fans and followers. "We will roll this out over the coming months, and we will work with others to create a new standard for transparency in online political ads".