Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Lawmakers Say They Plan to Release Facebook Ads Linked to Russia


WASHINGTON — Leaders of the House Intelligence Committee said on Wednesday that they planned to make public the thousands of Facebook ads linked to Russia that appeared during the 2016 presidential election campaign, the first indication that the ads would be released.

The lawmakers told reporters about their plans after an afternoon meeting with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. 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. That hearing, and a similar one that the Senate Intelligence Committee plans to hold with Facebook, Google and Twitter, will place Silicon Valley’s top companies under a harsh spotlight as the public perception of the giants shifts in Washington.

Ms. Sandberg sat down with Representative K. Michael Conaway of Texas, the Republican leader of the House investigation, and Representative Adam B. Schiff of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the committee, at the start of two full days of meetings with federal officials. The meetings are a part of the company’s lobbying and public relations push to contain fallout from disclosures that people linked to Russia bought more than $100,000 in ads on divisive issues on Facebook.

Lawmakers and public interest groups have called for the release of the ads, which Facebook shared with Congress last month, to understand what kind of material foreign buyers placed in front of Facebook users. But Facebook has said it had no plans to release the ads.

Mr. Schiff and Mr. Conaway said Ms. Sandberg appeared to understand the gravity of the political pressure surrounding Facebook.

“I think they certainly realize the intense interest in what the Russians did on their platform, the responsibility they have on their own to ferret this material out,” Mr. Schiff said to reporters after the meeting.

Before the ads can be released to the public, he said, they need to be scrubbed of any personally identifiable information. He said lawmakers had asked Facebook for help in that process.

“It’s our hope that when they conclude, then we can release them publicly,” Mr. Schiff said.

Later in the day, Ms. Sandberg met with Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader.

On Thursday, Ms. Sandberg will take the stage with the media outlet Axios for a 30-minute interview about Facebook’s handling of the Russia probe. Then she will meet with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who are concerned that racist and anti-immigrant messages spread on the site were amplified by the platform’s technology and fake accounts.

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