Facebook says it will release the more than 3,000 political ads purchased by Russian actors on its platform during the 2016 campaign to congressional investigators on Monday.
The move comes after Facebook faced pressure from federal lawmakers such as Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Biden holds meetings to resurrect his spending plan Democrats feel high anxiety in Biden spending conflict Biden meets with Jayapal to kick off week of pivotal meetings MORE (D-Va.) and Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffParis Hilton takes to Capitol Hill to advocate for troubled teen care reform Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt Press: Steve Bannon behind bars in Capitol basement? MORE (D-Calif.). They are the highest ranking Democrats in the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, respectively.
While they have said that they’re pleased with Facebook’s decision to release the ads to investigators, they note that they would still like more details.
A spokesperson for Warner said he’s interested in the activity of the social media accounts through which the ads were purchased. His office believes this could yield more information on how Russians may have sought to influence the election and sow discord among Americans more than through just the advertisements.
"I think we may just be seeing the tip of the iceberg. [Facebook has] had a fairly narrow search,” Warner said last month.
The Senate Intelligence Committee sent invitations to Facebook, Google and Twitter last week to testify before a Congressional panel on Nov. 1 regarding potential Russian interference in the 2016 election. None of the companies have said they will attend, but after Twitter briefed the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on Thursday, Warner said he may subpoena representatives from the firms to appear, if necessary.
The House Intelligence Committee says it will also hold a public hearing on the matter in October, and would like the three companies to be present as well.
For its part, Facebook said it’s constantly updating its systems as it hunts for malicious activity and that it has been forthcoming in the information it has provided so far.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously announced that the company would share its findings with federal investigators but did not specify when. Some lawmakers have already seen the ads. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrDemocratic incumbents bolster fundraising advantage in key Senate races McConnell gets GOP wake-up call Senate approves short-term debt ceiling increase MORE (R-N.C.) told reporters last week that his staff had reviewed some of the ads.
Burr said he thought that the ads targeted both conservatives and liberals equally.
At the beginning of September, Facebook revealed that a Kremlin-linked group called the Internet Research Agency had purchased $100,000 in political ads during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Later reports from The Daily Beast and The Washington Post found that at least some of the roughly 3,000 advertisements purchased by the group were designed to affect political opinion and tug at social fault lines in the U.S. Some ads suggested that Black Lives Matter was a political threat. Others encouraged Americans to participate in pro-Trump rallies.