Facebook releasing 3000 Russian-bought adverts to Congress

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Facebook will share the content and related information of the more than 3,000 ads it sold to Russian-linked accounts with the House and Senate intelligence committees, the company said Thursday.

Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said in a separate blog post that the social network does not disclose content lightly under any circumstances, but that the company wants to help protect the integrity of USA elections.

"As we continue our investigation to get to the bottom of Russia's multifaceted attack on our democratic process", he said, "I believe it will be necessary to hear directly from Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as others in the tech sector, including in open hearings that will inform the American public".

The comments were a marked shift for the Facebook founder, who days after the November 2016 US election said it was a "crazy idea" to think that misinformation on Facebook swayed the vote toward President Donald Trump.

Calls for Facebook to release the content to members of Congress as well, however, had been ramping up in recent weeks, after Facebook publicly announced that the accounts "likely operated out of Russia" had bought and released a series of adverts at key times during the United States election campaign, mostly promoting divisive messages on issues such as gun rights and race.

He added: "We won't catch everyone immediately, but we can make it harder to try to interfere". The CEO tried to downplay the content that was found by Facebook saying it was "relatively small".

In one change, Facebook will make it possible for anyone to see any political ad that runs on Facebook, no matter whom it targets.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is "actively working" with the USA government in its ongoing Russian Federation investigations.

And says, "I don't want anyone to use our tools to undermine our democracy".

Facebook said earlier this month that accounts likely tied to Russian Federation had bought ads to boost their reach on the platform before last year's presidential election.

Zuckerberg outlined nine ways Facebook plans to ensure something like this doesn't happen again. Facebook will also "create more services to protect our communities" which will address political harassment and bullying.

"We may find more, and if we do, we will continue to work with the government", said Zuckerberg.

Facebook, he said, will strengthen its own ad review process for political ads.

Most of the ads did not mention Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but focused on immigration, gun control, gay rights and other divisive social issues. The social media platform said approximately one-quarter of the ads were geographically targeted and ran mostly in 2015 rather than 2016.

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