House Intelligence Committee says it will release the Russian-bought Facebook ads

The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, told reporters on Wednesday that the committee will release the Facebook ads purchased by accounts operating out of Russia during the 2016 election.

Schiff and Rep. Mike Conaway, who is leading the Russia investigation, held a press conference following their meeting with Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Conaway said that the committee will release the ads “as quick as we can,” and Schiff said they have asked Facebook to “help scrub any personally identifiable information.”

“But it’s our hope that when they conclude, then we can release them publicly,” Schiff said. “They will [then] be released by our committee.”

He added that the ads will “probably” not be released before the committee’s hearing with representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter on November 1.

Conaway said he didn’t know who would be at the hearing, “but we believe the three companies will be represented that will be meaningful to this conversation.”

Facebook revealed last month that “inauthentic” users likely operating out of Russia’s “troll factory,” the Internet Research Agency, purchased approximately $US100,000 worth of ads during the election. Approximately 25% of the ads were geographically targeted, and many promoted outsider candidates and exploited racial tensions.

The ads boosted Trump, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, and at least one ad centered on the Black Lives Matter movement. A group impersonating a California-based Muslim organisation was also set up to push fake stories about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr said during a press conference earlier this month that Facebook could reveal the ads at their discretion. But Facebook has said that it does not want to impede special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference.

Under mounting pressure, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced earlier this month that Facebook had developed a nine-point plan to examine the Russian influence campaign and prevent similar efforts in the future.

Among the changes: Facebook says it will start disclosing which pages paid for political ads, and it plans to partner with election commissions and cyber-threat specialists to mitigate misuse of its platform.

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