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House panel to publicly release Russia Facebook ads

House panel to publicly release Russia Facebook ads
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, L, and Vice President of global communications, marketing and public policy Elliot Schrage, R, on Capitol Hill after meeting with U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) in Washington. Photo: Reuters

House panel to publicly release Russia Facebook ads

WASHINGTON - The leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation said Wednesday they intend to publicly release thousands of politically divisive Facebook ads purchased by Russia during last year's presidential election.

Representatives Mike Conaway and Adam Schiff told reporters after meeting with Facebook Inc <FB.O> Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg that they were working with the company to release the ads publicly.

"We've asked for Facebook's help to scrub any personally identifiable information, but it's our hope that when that concludes we can release them publicly," Schiff said.

Conaway said it was unlikely the ads would be released before Facebook will testify to Congress about Russian interference on Nov. 1.

The committee, one of the main congressional panels investigating allegations of Russian meddling, recently received more than 3,000 politically divisive ads believed to have been purchased by Russia. The social media company found them on its network and said they appeared in the months before and after the vote. Lawmakers in both parties had previously said they wanted to make the ads public.

Officials from Facebook and the committee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sandberg's meeting in Congress came as the world's largest social media network, joined by a growing list of other major internet firms, finds itself on the defensive in Washington amid renewed scrutiny about how Moscow sought to use their platforms to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Sandberg is in Washington this week meeting with other lawmakers as well. She is expected to give a live interview with the news website Axios on Thursday.

In addition to Facebook, Alphabet's <GOOGL.O> Google and Twitter <TWTR.N> have recently detected that suspected Russian operatives used their platforms last year to purchase ads and post content that was politically divisive.

All three companies have been asked to testify publicly about Russian interference before both the House and Senate intelligence panels on Nov. 1. While Facebook and Twitter have confirmed plans to attend, Google has not.

Revelations over the past month about how Russia appears to have leveraged their platforms to spread propaganda have prompted questions from both political parties about whether more federal oversight of their businesses is needed.

Some Democrats plan to introduce legislation to require internet companies to disclose more information about political ad purchases on their platforms. REUTERS