Facebook has agreed to provide Congress with the 3,000 ads paid for by suspected Russian trolls.
“After an extensive legal and policy review, today we are announcing that we will also share these ads with congressional investigators,” Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch said in a statement. “We believe it is vitally important that government authorities have the information they need to deliver to the public a full assessment of what happened in the 2016 election.”
Though Facebook had previously released the ads to Special Counsel Robert Mueller when presented with a warrant, they have refused to make these ads public citing company policy.
After denying for months that any Russian entities purchased ads on Facebook during last year’s election, the social media giant has admitted that it belatedly discovered that some 470 phony accounts linked to a shadowy St. Petersburg media firm with ties to the Kremlin. The firm allegedly placed ads on highly charged issues in American politics, such as LGBT and gun rights — ads that in some cases explicitly mentioned Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the 2016 election.
Without the ads becoming public, along with information from Facebook on how the ads were deployed, it’s impossible for Americans to determine how many of the online ads they saw during the election cycle were actually propaganda generated in Moscow.
With the ads being presented to congressional investigators as well as Mueller, it becomes more likely that this information will eventually become public. While studies indicated that many of the stories that circulated on Facebook in the closing days of the campaign were sourced from fake sites set up by Russian propaganda providers, it’s not clear what percentage of Facebook’s political ads also came from these sources.