Facebook owes the US an apology
Russia-linked ads turned over
ATOP Facebook executive says ads linked to Russia trying to influence the U.S. presidential election should “absolutely” be released to the public, along with information on whom the ads were targeting.
Previously, Facebook declined to make the ads public. While Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, now favours the release, she didn’t say yesterday when the company would do so.
The company disclosed last month that 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. Congress is also investigating Russia-linked ads on Twitter and Google.
But she also said that had the ads been linked to legitimate, rather than fake, Facebook accounts, “most of them would have been allowed to run.”
While the company prohibits certain content such as hate speech, it does not want to prevent free expression, she said.
The move comes as critics and lawmakers are increasingly calling for the regulation of Facebook and other internet giants.
Sandberg said Facebook didn’t catch these ads earlier because it was focused on other threats, such as hacking.
Facebook, she said, does owe America an apology.
“What we really owe the American people is determination” to do “everything we can” to defend against threats and foreign interference, Sandberg said.
Sandberg didn’t say whether she believes Facebook played a role in electing Donald Trump as president, as critics have said it did by allowing the spread of fake news on its service.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has backtracked from calling the idea of Facebook’s influence on the election “pretty crazy.”
Sandberg met privately with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, where she was pressed on what the company is doing in response to its discovery that many of the ads pushed by Russian-linked accounts were aimed at sowing racial discord.
A member of Congress who viewed about 70 of the roughly 3 000 ads told The Associated Press that they were meant to stir up strong emotions on all sides.
Some of the ads showed white police officers beating black people, said the member, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the ads aren’t yet public.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana who chairs the caucus, said that 95% of the 3 000 ads were placed on Facebook itself, while the remaining 5% were on Instagram.
Members also pushed for Facebook to improve diversity in its workforce, particularly in its upper management. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat who chairs the caucus, said Sandberg promised to appoint an African-American to the board, a move the caucus and other activists have been pushing for years. Facebook has eight board members, all white. – AP