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Congress To Release Russian-Bought Facebook Ads To The Public

12 October 2017

Google's admission comes just a week after Facebook, the world's largest social network, revealed that a Russian internet agency previous year purchased around 3,000 targeted advertisements aimed at influencing the presidential election, which saw Republican Donald Trump defeat his Democratic rival Hilary Clinton.

Axios reported an email sent to Facebook advertisers said that ads that are targeted to people based on "politics, religion, ethnicity or social issues" are now to be manually reviewed before they are set live. Now Congress is planning to release the advertisements to the American public, according to CNBC - but not before a November 1st hearing that will include Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Federal, congressional and private investigators are all looking into the extent of Russian efforts to influence USA media prior to the U.S. elections; a common thread is that Russians with alleged Kremlin ties sought to spread misinformation and confusion with the goal of promoting division and President Donald Trump's candidacy.

The committee, one of the main congressional panels investigating allegations of Russian meddling, recently received more than 3,000 politically divisive ads believed to have been purchased by Russia.

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The committee planned to work with Facebook to "scrub" personally identifiable information from the ads, Schiff said. Lawmakers in both parties had previously said they wanted to make the ads public.

Ads purchased by the Russian actors included messages suggesting that Black Lives Matter is a political threat and encouraged viewers to attend an anti-Muslim and anti-immigration rally in Idaho. The Senate Intelligence Committee is also holding an open hearing with the three companies that day.

Conaway, R-Texas, and the top Democrat on the panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, met with Sandberg in the office of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

The coalition, whose membership is still unclear, plans to take advantage of its meeting with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Thursday to press her on what they see as Facebook's inaction on race issues.

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Schiff said Sandberg wanted to calm members of Congress, who were initially concerned that the company was reluctant to share information and to ensure that foreign governments don't wage information campaigns in US elections. The source said Google is still sorting out whether some of the ads came from legitimate Russian accounts. "After we do that, we'll release them publicly".

Facebook ad regulations will get tougher.

But "my personal hope is we do this as quickly as we can", Conaway said. Some members of the caucus have been critical of Facebook over the ads, many of which had racial themes. The person said the ads were meant to inflame all sides, with some showing white police officers beating black people.

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Congress To Release Russian-Bought Facebook Ads To The Public