Congress’ investigators found out two weeks ago that Facebook had sold $100,000 in advertisements to a troll farm with connections to the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election. Their content was clear proof that the Russians were using propaganda to interfere in the U.S. election. Facebook’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has been reluctant to comply with the Senate Intelligence Committee – until now.
After Zuckerberg resisted, controversy bubbled up, which raised questions about where the social media fit between free speech and corporate regulation.
The Democratic leader of the Republican-run committee, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, has been outspoken in his criticism of Facebook’s lack of interaction with its investigation. Then, according to the Washington Post, after Zuckerberg made his announcement, Warner tweeted:
‘(It was an) important & absolutely necessary first step. The American people deserve to know the truth about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.’
Facebook gave Congress over 3,000 online political ads that Russians bought during the presidential campaign. At first, the company only allowed investigators to briefly view some of the ads, stating user privacy concerns. Thursday, Zuckerberg changed his mind and made his announcement on Facebook Live.
He blamed the delay on the company’s “extensive legal and policy review.” Also, the billionaire owner announced that Facebook had introduced initiatives to enhance their advertisement review process, would make information about those purchasing political ads more accessible in the future, and would continue to work with election officials across the globe. The Washington Post reported Zuckerberg said:
‘I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity. Facebook’s mission is all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together. Those are deeply democratic values and we’re proud of them. I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That’s not what we stand for.’
Facebook decided that the “vitally important” issue made it important to work with Congress in ways that protected user privacy, Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch wrote on Facebook’s newsroom site. He said “all relevant companies and industries” need to cooperate and “we want to do our part:”
‘We believe the public deserves a full accounting of what happened in the 2016 election, and we’ve concluded that sharing the ads we’ve discovered, in a manner that is consistent with our obligations to protect user information, can help.’
A murky troll farm located in St. Petersburg, Russia, Internet Research Agency, purchased the Facebook ads using fake accounts.
Congressional investigators had also requested Google and Twitter more fully cooperate with them. Independent investigators indicated that they, too, carried a significant amount of political propaganda. At this time, Congress does not have a handle on how much Russia was involved in their ad buys.
Check out this video about the ads Facebook turned over to Congress via the Washington Post:
Featured Image via CNN Twitter Page.