House Intelligence Committee leaders announced Wednesday that they will release Facebook ads linked to Russian efforts to influence U.S. politics in 2016.
The House’s top Russia investigators, Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) and ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff of California, revealed the committee’s intent to publicize the ads after a closed-door meeting with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
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The lawmakers said they’d release the ads sometime after tech companies testify on Capitol Hill about foreign meddling in the presidential election.
“We will do that as quick as we can,” Conaway told reporters. The decision to make the ads public will draw intense scrutiny as more details emerge about Moscow’s role in attempting to sway the election for Donald Trump.
Reports have indicated that the ads featured divisive images and rhetoric meant to inflame passions on both the left and the right, but so far the House and Senate intelligence committees haven’t released the ads. Leaders on the Senate committee have said it’s their policy to never release source material. Facebook, too, had balked at releasing the ads until now as well.
Schiff said lawmakers had asked Facebook for help to “scrub any personally identifiable information” from the ads.
Sandberg also met with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) before heading to a separate huddle with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats. Sandberg is not meeting with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) this week, according to his office
Senate Intelligence leaders have said it’s up to Facebook to release the ad content if it wants. NBC was first to report Wednesday that the House Intelligence Committee plans to release the ads.
Some lawmakers are also discussing whether to pass a law that would force social media advertisers to disclose the source of their spending, just as television advertisers are already required to do.
The CBC, long a critic of the lack of workforce diversity at Facebook and other tech companies, is now urging Facebook and Twitter to curb Russia-linked ads.
A congressional source said the CBC plans to press Sandberg on Facebook’s ongoing diversity issue, saying it is one reason the social media site failed to quickly recognize that the Russian-bought ads promoting Black Lives Matter were aimed at exploiting racial tensions in the U.S.
CBC Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) sent a letter to Facebook and Twitter last week requesting that the two companies share the Russian-bought ads more broadly with members of Congress and brief lawmakers on the scope of the Kremlin’s social media activity.
Facebook and Twitter have said they plan to send representatives to testify before Intelligence Committee investigators. Google is also invited but has not said whether it plans to attend.
Facebook briefed congressional investigators last week on its internal probe into Russian-linked election ads. The company said 10 million people saw ads placed by Russia’s Internet Research Agency.