Facebook committed to helping US investigators release Russia ads

Ms Sheryl Sandberg said "things happened on our platform... that shouldn't have happened".
Ms Sheryl Sandberg said "things happened on our platform... that shouldn't have happened".PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Facebook's chief operating officer, Ms Sheryl Sandberg, yesterday said the company was fully committed to helping US congressional investigators make public Russia-backed political ads that ran during the US presidential election last year.

Ms Sandberg told the Axios news website in an interview that "things happened on our platform in this election that shouldn't have happened".

The social media giant recently gave congressional panels investigating allegations of Russian meddling during the election more than 3,000 politically divisive advertisements believed to have been bought by Russia.

Facebook found them on its network and said the ads appeared in the months before and after the election.

The congressional meetings are part of Facebook's lobbying and public relations push to contain the fallout from disclosures that a group linked to Russia bought more than US$100,000 (S$136,000) worth of ads on divisive issues on its platform.

Ms Sandberg said she was supportive of those advertisements being released, in addition to the pages they were connected to.

"We don't want this kind of foreign interference" on Facebook, she said, adding that in many cases, accounts were taken down because they were fake, but that if those accounts were run by real people, the social media network would have not removed them.

Leaders of the US House Intelligence Committee had earlier said they planned to make public the thousands of Russia-linked ads - the first indication that the ads would be released.

The lawmakers told reporters about their plans on Wednesday, after a meeting with Ms Sandberg. They said the 3,000 ads would probably be released after a Nov 1 hearing on the role of social media platforms in Russia's interference in the election.

Meanwhile, Facebook has begun overhauling how it handles political ads on its platform and may put some changes in place before US elections next year, said chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer.

NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2017, with the headline 'Facebook committed to helping US investigators release Russia ads'. Print Edition | Subscribe