US Congress tangles with Facebook, other social media firms over Russian Federation probe


A top executive at Facebook says that Congress should publicly release ads purchased by Russia-linked accounts on the social media site.

She said, "We think it's important that they get the whole picture and they explain that fully to the American public", and adding that once the investigation was concluded and made public, Facebook would provide more information about the ads and how they were used.

Facebook said it believed the messages were likely bought by people in Russian Federation before and after the 2016 election.

On Thursday, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg assured members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) that the social media company will name a black director to its board "within the foreseeable future".

Sandberg said that Facebook is run by technical workers and engineers and according to her, the company does not produce news content, therefore it can't be a media company. The company and others have said they are turning over information, but also that they are legally obligated to protect their users' privacy.

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The company, however, did not comment on how long the option had been live, or what percentage of Facebook users had it available. Facebook has been working on the new product for a year, and carried out tests with restaurants including Papa John's (PZZA).

Asked if Facebook contributed to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's defeat past year, Sandberg, an open Clinton supporter during the campaign, did not answer directly but said it was important the website was "free from abuse" during any election in any country. If the company accepts that it is a media firm, it would open the platform up to regulatory rules in the U.S. and other countries which Facebook would rather avoid.

The use of social media platforms was part of what US intelligence agencies have concluded was a broader Russian effort to meddle in the election campaign, an allegation the Kremlin has denied.

Congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating Russian interference in the election, including whether there was any collusion between Trump associates and Moscow.

Sandberg acknowledged that the company had erred in how it handled the issue of foreign interference past year.

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

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"It's not just that we apologize. But what we really owe the American people is determination to do a better job of preventing foreign meddling", she said.

She criticized Twitter's decision this week to remove a campaign video from Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee.

The sources said investigators were also pressing Twitter, Google and other companies for similar data, and urging Twitter to conduct a more comprehensive search of its data banks.

"You can ask her about the response", Clyburn told Politico.

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