Facebook hands over Russia-linked ads to Congress, announces new policies

Published October 02, 2017

Facebook announced stricter policies Monday for ad buys on the social media mega-platform, as the tech giant handed Congress more than 3,000 ads linked to a Russian entity.

The company said last month that it had discovered ads linked to Facebook accounts that likely operated out of Russia and pushed divisive issues during the U.S. presidential election. The company said it found 450 accounts and about $100,000 was spent on the ads.

Joel Kaplan, vice president of global policy, said in a new statement that those ads were being delivered Monday to congressional investigators. Meanwhile, he outlined several other steps being taken by the company, including the hiring of more than 1,000 people to staff global ad review teams.

Facebook will also require better documentation from advertisers who want to run ads related to the U.S. election.

“Potential advertisers will have to confirm the business or organization they represent before they can buy ads,” Kaplan wrote.

As for the hiring surge, he said, “Enforcement is never perfect, but we will get better at finding and removing improper ads.”

The moves come as the company is under pressure from multiple congressional committees that are investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Congress has recently focused on the spread of false news stories and propaganda on social media, putting pressure on Facebook and other social media companies to turn over more information and release any Russia-linked ads.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg first announced on Sept. 21 that the company would hand over the ads to Congress and take measures to ensure that political ads that appear on the site are more transparent.

Although Facebook has not confirmed the nature of the ads, new reports suggest they are related to issues dealing with religion, race, and gun ownership, The New York Times reported.

Twitter has said it found similar postings linked to those same accounts and that it suspended 22 accounts because of it.  

House and Senate intelligence panels have asked both companies, along with Google, to testify publicly in the coming weeks but none of the companies have said whether they will accept the invitations.

It is unclear whether the ads will eventually be released publicly. Several lawmakers — including Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel — have said they believe the American public should see them.

"As a general rule, we are limited in what we can discuss publicly about law enforcement investigations, so we may not always be able to share our findings publicly," Zuckerberg said. "But we support Congress in deciding how to best use this information to inform the public, and we expect the government to publish its findings when their investigation is complete."

Facebook officials will also meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee in addition to working with Special Counsel Bob Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the election. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/10/02/facebook-to-handover-3000-russian-related-ads-to-congress.html