Facebook agrees to release information about Russian-purchased ads to Congress

© Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / AFP

Facebook has reached agreement with the US Congress to release the ads purchased by a Russian agency during the 2016 presidential campaign, the social network said in a statement.

“After an extensive legal and policy review, we’ve concluded that sharing the ads we’ve discovered with Congress, in a manner that is consistent with our obligations to protect user information, will help government authorities complete the vitally important work of assessing what happened in the 2016 election,” Facebook said in its blog.

“We want to do our part,” the company said, adding that “Congress is best place to use the information we and others provide.”

“The vast majority of our over 5 million advertisers use our self-service tools,” without contact with the company’s employees, it said, adding that’s how the ads in question were acquired.

“So there was nothing necessarily noteworthy at the time about a foreign actor running an ad involving a social issue. Of course, knowing what we’ve learned since the election, some of these ads were indeed both noteworthy and problematic,” the statement read.

In a separate statement, Facebook co-founder and chairman Mark Zuckerberg said that the company is “actively working with the US government on its ongoing investigations into Russian interference.”

“When we recently uncovered this activity, we provided that information to the special counsel. We also briefed Congress – and this morning I directed our team to provide the ads we’ve found to Congress as well,” Zuckerberg said.

The internal probe by Facebook continues and may well have uncovered more information, he said.

“We are looking into foreign actors, including additional Russian groups and other former Soviet states, as well as organizations like the campaigns, to further our understanding of how they used our tools,” the Facebook chairman said.

Political advertising on Facebook will become more transparent “in the coming months,” Zuckerberg said.

“Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook,” he said.

Investments into security and sharing of data on “bad actors” with other tech giants will also be boosted, among other measures, Zuckerberg added.