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Facebook to hand over Russia-linked ads to Congress

By
Danielle Haynes
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg waves to the crowd at the 366th Commencement for Harvard University at Tercentenary Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., on May 25. On Thursday he announced Facebook would be handing over information about ads the company sold to Russia-linked fake accounts during the 2016 election. File Photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg waves to the crowd at the 366th Commencement for Harvard University at Tercentenary Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., on May 25. On Thursday he announced Facebook would be handing over information about ads the company sold to Russia-linked fake accounts during the 2016 election. File Photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI | License Photo

Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday said the social media giant will share information about more than 3,000 advertisements sold to Russia-linked accounts with Congress.

He said the content will be made available to the House an Senate intelligence committees investigating Russia's involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and whether President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow. The information has already been shared with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is also conducting an investigation on behalf of the Department of Justice.

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Zuckerberg announced the plans in a live event on Facebook.

"I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity," he said. "I don't want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy -- that's not what we stand for."

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Earlier in September, Facebook told U.S. authorities it believed it had sold ads with "divisive messages" to fake accounts likely operated out of Russia.

In an internal investigation, Facebook discovered it sold some 3,000 ads between June 2015 and May 2017 for about $100,000 to the "inauthentic accounts." The accounts "were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia," the company said in a blog post Wednesday.

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The company said the "vast majority" of the ads didn't specifically mention the presidential election, though some did mention Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

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"Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum -- touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights," the blog post said.

Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch wrote a blog post Thursday stressing the importance for U.S. authorities to have the information needed to investigation the 2016 election.

"That is an assessment that can be made only by investigators with access to classified intelligence and information from all relevant companies and industries -- and we want to do our part," he wrote. "Congress is best placed to use the information we and others provide to inform the public comprehensively and completely.

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"We believe the public deserves a full accounting of what happened in the 2016 election, and we've concluded that sharing the ads we've discovered, in a manner that is consistent with our obligations to protect user information, can help."

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