Face­book owes the US an apology

Rus­sia-linked ads turned over

Daily News - - WORLD -

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


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