Source: Facebook refuses government request to publicly release Russia-linked election ads

Mark Zuckerberg question markRobert Galbraith/flickrFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook won’t publicly release the roughly 3,000 ads linked to Russia and purchased on its platform despite calls to do so by the US Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, a person close to the company told Business Insider.

But Facebook does plan to testify in a public hearing alongside Google and Twitter on November 1 about Russia’s use of social media to influence elections and the disclosure of political advertising online, the person said.

Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner called on Facebook to publicly release the ads, which have already been privately handed over to committee staffers investigating Russia’s meddling in US elections, during a press conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

“I think at the end of the day it’s important that the public see these ads,” said Warner, the intelligence committee’s vice chairman.

Facebook disclosed this week that 10 million of its users saw the ads before and after the election, and that most of the ads focused on “divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum” like LGBT issues, immigration, and gun rights.

A Facebook spokesperson told BI early last month that the company was “unable” to release the ads “due to both federal law and the fact that investigations are ongoing with the relevant authorities.”

While Warner and Burr said their committee wouldn’t release the ads, they said Wednesday that Facebook could release them if it wanted.

“We don’t release documents provided to our committee, period,” said Burr. “Clearly if any of the social media companies would like to do that, we’re fine with them doing it.”

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on why it won’t release the ads it said were designed to stir division in the US before and after the 2016 presidential election.

A recent CNN report said some of the Russia-linked ads were specifically targeted at people in Michigan and Wisconsin, two battleground states that were critical in helping President Donald Trump win last November’s election.

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