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Facebook supports full disclosure on Russia-backed ads: Sandberg

October 12, 2017

Facebook’s number two executive Sheryl Sandberg said Thursday the company supports the decision to release the contents and targets of Russia-backed political ads on the social network in the 2016 election.

Sandberg, in a visit to Washington where she met lawmakers probing Russian efforts to manipulate social media during the election, said Facebook is “fully cooperating” with investigations in Congress and a special counsel.

“We think it’s important that (investigators) get the whole picture and explain that transparently to the American public,” Sandberg said in an interview with the news site Axios that was streamed live.

Sandberg said Facebook would provide additional material to investigators as needed to determine the level of foreign interference in the US election.

“We gave them so far the ads plus the pages they linked to,” said Sandberg, who is Facebook’s chief operating officer.

“We’ll continue to provide information.”

Asked if that meant providing data on how ads were targeted to specific groups of people, Sandberg said Facebook was prepared to do so.

“We’re going to give them the material they want,” she said.

US lawmakers have said they planned to release the ads placed on Facebook once any personal information on users is removed.

Last month, Facebook agreed to hand over the ads to congressional investigators in addition to special counsel Robert Mueller.

Facebook also agreed to hire additional staff to help screen potentially illegal political ads.

Sandberg acknowledged that “things happened on our platform in this election that should not have happened, especially foreign interference.”

According to Facebook, some 10 million people may have viewed the ads placed by a Russian entity that appeared aimed at sowing division and mistrust.

Some 470 accounts spent a total of approximately $100,000 between June 2015 to May 2017 on ads that touted fake or misleading news, according to Facebook.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.