Face­book exec meets with law­mak­ers amid Rus­sia probe

Sun.Star Pampanga - - WORLD! -

WASHINGTON -- One of Face­book's top ex­ecu tives 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.

Sh­eryl Sand­berg, Face­book's chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, told law­mak­ers be­hind closed doors that the com­pany is work­ing hard to en­sure Amer­i­cans "un­der­stand what the pro­pa­ganda is that they may or may not be read­ing," said House Repub­li­can Rep. Mike Con­away, who is lead­ing the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee probe.

Wed­nes­day's meet­ings are ahead of a Nov. 1 House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing at which Face­book, Twit­ter and Google are ex­pected to tes­tify. The Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee is also hold­ing an open hear­ing with the three companies that day.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors have re­cently fo­cused on the spread of false news sto­ries and pro­pa­ganda on so­cial me­dia and have pres­sured Face­book, along with Twit­ter and Google, to re­lease any Rus­sialinked ads. Face­book re­cently pro­vided three con­gres­sional com­mit­tees with more than 3,000 ads they had traced to a Rus­sian in­ter­net agency.

Face­book has said those ads fo­cused on di­vi­sive po­lit­i­cal mes­sages, in­clud­ing LGBT is­sues, im­mi­gra­tion and gun rights, and were seen by an es­ti­mated 10 mil­lion peo­ple.

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. Sand­berg also held a sep­a­rate meet­ing with Schiff, House Demo­cratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia and No. 2 House Demo­crat Steny Hoyer of Mary­land.

Schiff said Sand­berg wanted to con­vey that the com­pany is se­ri­ous about the is­sue to mem­bers of Con­gress, some of whom have ex­pressed con­cerns that the com­pany was re­luc­tant to share in­for­ma­tion and en­sure that for­eign gov­ern­ments don't wage in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns in U.S. elec­tions.

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."

He said Sand­berg also in­di­cated the com­pany wants the help of the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity to iden­tify who may be us­ing Face­book for those rea­sons.

Con­away and Schiff said af­ter the meet­ing that they ex­pect to even­tu­ally re­lease the Face­book ads.

That's a break from the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, which had said it won't re­lease them.

Face­book has also de­clined to make the ads pub­lic.

"My per­sonal bias is that we'll do that as quickly as we can," Con­away said, adding that they prob­a­bly wouldn't re­lease the ads be­fore the Nov. 1 hear i ngs.

Both men said that in the end, vot­ers need to be more aware of the type of in­for­ma­tion they are seek­ing out.

"You and I as vot­ers are re­spon­si­ble for where we get in­for­ma­tion and how we trust it, and whether we trust it," Con­away said.

Sand­berg also was ex­pected to meet Thursday with the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus. Some mem­bers of the cau­cus have been crit­i­cal of Face­book over the ads, many of which had racial themes.

One mem­ber of Con­gress who viewed the ads said that of about 70 that per­son had viewed, all of them had racial themes. The per­son said the ads were meant to in­flame all sides, with some show­ing white po­lice of­fi­cers beat­ing black peo­ple. The mem­ber de­clined to be named be­cause the ads aren't yet pub­lic.

In a let­ter to Face­book last month, Demo­cratic Rep. Robin Kelly of Illi­nois, a mem­ber of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus, wrote Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg and asked him to do more to strengthen con­trols against dis­crim­i­na­tory ads.

"It is my be­lief that Face­book can­not be the Tro­jan Horse through which Amer­ica's vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties are ex­ploited," Kelly wrote.

Also Thursday, a data min­ing and anal­y­sis com­pany that worked on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's cam­paign con­firmed it is turn­ing over in­for­ma­tion to the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, to "pro­vide it with in­for­ma­tion that might help its in­ves­ti­ga­tion."

"We be­lieve that other or­ga­ni­za­tions that worked on the cam­paign have been asked to do the same," Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica said in a state­ment, adding that there was no "sug­ges­tion of wrong­do­ing."


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