As it comes under increasing pressure to stop the spread of misinformation, Facebook has announced that it will turn over copies of more than 3000 ads it believes were bought by a Russian “troll farm” to congressional investigators.
At the start of the month, it was revealed that the social network sold $100,000 worth of ads to a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency, which has been responsible for churning out pro-Kremlin propaganda in the past. Facebook admitted the ads, which could have potentially influenced the US election, were targeted at users with an interest in issues such as gun rights, immigration, and discrimination.
Facebook released details of the ads only to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into Russia’s alleged election meddling. In a blog post by the company’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, Facebook revealed it will now be sharing the information “more broadly.”
After an extensive legal and policy review, today we are announcing that we will also share these ads 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. 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.
In a separate announcement on Facebook Live, Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook would now ensure its political ads are more transparent. Advertisers will have to disclose which page paid for an ad, and users will be able to see what ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook.
“I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy,” said the CEO. “That’s not what we stand for.”
Facebook is also adding 250 more staff to teams around the world that ensure election integrity. Moreover, it will collaborate with other tech companies when trying to prevent interference, strengthen its ad review process, protect users from political harassment, and will carry out its own investigation into how Russia and others took advantage of the platform.