Facebook hands over Russia-linked ads to Congress

Rachel England

Facebook is handing over evidence of 3,000 Russia-linked advertisements to congressional investigators today, following weeks of pressure from Congress to reveal details about its advertising system. The ads in question -- which ran between June 2015 and May 2017 -- are said to have been paid for by a Russian entity known as the "Internet Research Agency" with the apparent intention of fuelling political discord and exacerbating divisiveness, particularly during the presidential election.

Facebook isn't planning on releasing the ads to the public, nor will it share further information about the details of the ads and who they were seen by. However, according to CNN, sources familiar with the issue claim they include Black Lives Matter posts, adverts promoting gun rights and posts depicting refugees as rapists. CNN also reported last week that at least one Black Lives Matter post was targeted at the cities of Baltimore and Ferguson, and that at least one campaign has attempted to incite outrage over police shootings.

In a live video address on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said, "It is a new challenge for internet communities to deal with nation-states attempting to subvert elections. But if that's what we must do, we are committed to rising to the occasion." In this instance, however, it seems that Facebook is largely rising to the pressure applied by Congress -- the onus will now be on Congress, not Facebook, to release the ads to the public. Facebook has pledged to change its advertising systems to give more insight into the identity of those purchasing political advertisements in the future, but given the current political landscape, some might say that's too little, too late.