House panel to publicly release Russia Facebook ads

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.   Drew Angerer  Getty Images

Facebook Inc Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said on Thursday the company was fully committed to helping U.S. congressional investigators publicly release Russia-backed political ads that ran during the 2016 United States election.

In addition, Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is conducting a criminal probe, including whether President Trump's campaign colluded with Russian operatives during the election season.

Conaway said it was unlikely the ads would be released before Facebook will testify to Congress about Russian interference on November 1.

One of Facebook's top executives met Wednesday with House members investigating the company's Russia-linked ads and told them the social media giant is serious about dealing with the issue.

"We've asked for Facebook's help to scrub any personally identifiable information, but it's our hope that when that concludes we can release them publicly", Schiff said.

Axios asked Sandberg what the world's largest social network knew about the extent of Russia's use of its platform and if ads on Facebook that had been placed by Russian accounts and Donald Trump's presidential campaign had overlapped in terms of target audiences.

Sandberg is meeting with elected officials in Washington this week ahead of a House hearing at which executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google are expected to testify.

Sandberg made the trip to Washington D.C.to inform USA lawmakers about progress in Facebook's internal investigation into the Russian adverts on the site.

In addition to Facebook, Alphabet's GOOGL.O Google and Twitter TWTR.N have recently detected that suspected Russian operatives used their platforms a year ago to purchase ads and post content that was politically divisive.

Sandberg said, according to Schiff, that Facebook is 'determined to take whatever steps are necessary to ferret out foreign actors creating fake identities and using their platform'.

"We don't want this kind of foreign interference" on Facebook, Sandberg said. "Any time there is abuse on our platform, it troubles us".

Still, Sandberg said it was important to protect "free expression" on Facebook.

She criticized Twitter's decision this week to remove a campaign video from Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee.

Facebook has turned over the ads - and information on how they were targeted, such as by geography or to people with a certain political affiliation - to congressional investigators.

The Facebook COO dodged several questions during the Axios interview, including one on whether or not Facebook owed the American people an apology.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is also holding an open hearing with the three companies that day.

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