Following weeks of reports detailing how Russian operatives used Facebook to sell political ads and schedule protests during the 2016 presidential election, the social media giant has agreed to comply with mounting pressure from Capitol Hill. According to CNN, the company agreed to hand over all “content and related information” regarding at least 3,000 Russia-linked ads to the House and Senate intelligence committees. Facebook had already turned over this information to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller for his ongoing probe, but Thursday’s news marks its first cooperation on the matter with Congress.
Per the New York Times, Facebook’s new direction marks a decidedly different tone from its previous response to an early September report that revealed Russia-linked accounts sold ads seen by tens of millions of Americans during the election. They had “spent two weeks on the defensive amid calls for greater transparency,” and while they “had previously shown Congressional staffers a sample of the ads,” nothing too detailed has been shared until now. The change of heart may have been due to Democrats’ inquiries to the Federal Election Commission, or — as Mark Zuckerberg’s live address suggests — the Facebook CEO’s return from parental leave.
During the Thursday afternoon broadcast, Zuckerberg said he “[cared] deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity. Facebook’s mission is all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together. Those are deeply democratic values and we’re proud of them. I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy.” He then outlined “9 things we’ll be working on over the next few months,” including an out-of-character push for transparency:
“When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they’re required by law to disclose who paid for them. But you still don’t know if you’re seeing the same messages as everyone else. So we’re going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook. We will roll this out over the coming months, and we will work with others to create a new standard for transparency in online political ads.”
You can read the entirety of Zuckerberg’s remarks here. Otherwise, you can watch his nearly nine minute-long Facebook Live address below.