Facebook will help investigators release Russian Federation ads, Sandberg tells Axios


"Absolutely", Ms Sandberg told Axios when asked if she supported releasing those ads publicly.

Previously, Facebook declined to make the ads public.

Facebook Inc Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said on Thursday the company was committed to helping USA congressional investigators publicly release Russia-backed political ads that ran during the 2016 US election.

The company disclosed last month that it found ads linked to fake accounts - likely run from Russian Federation - that sought to influence the election. "But the question is, 'Should divisive political or issue ads run?' Our answer is yes because when you cut off speech for one person you cut off speech for all people", she said.

"We know we have a responsibility to prevent everything we can from this happening on our platforms... and so we told Congress and the Intelligence committees that when they are ready to release the ads, we are ready to help them", she said.

While Facebook is a distributor of both video and text to some 2 billion people around the world, Sandberg reiterated: "We are a tech company". She said Facebook hopes to "set a new standard in transparency in advertising".

Sandberg said it was important to protect "free expression" on Facebook and that if the Russian ads had been bought by legitimate accounts instead of fraudulent ones, many would have been allowed to run on the site.

She said the company had been too permissive at times in terms of how advertisers were allowed to target users.

"When you allow free expression, you allow free expression", She said.

Sandberg, in a live-streamed conversation with Mike Allen, the executive editor of Axios, at the Newseum in Washington, was pointedly asked if there was an overlap between Trump's campaign and the Russian Federation accounts.

"So, Twitter took down the ad and put it back up", Sandberg said.

The Trump campaign used Cambridge Analytica, a firm backed by Trump supporter Robert Mercer, which blended its own database of information on American voters with Facebook to find swing voters or discourage people from voting at all.

Sandberg said that Facebook is run by technical workers and engineers and according to her, the company does not produce news content, therefore it can't be a media company.

Sandberg didn't say whether she believes Facebook played a role in electing Donald Trump as president, as critics have said it did by allowing the spread of fake news on its service.

In a letter to Facebook last month, Democratic Rep. Robin Kelly of IL, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and asked him to do more to strengthen controls against discriminatory ads.

Sandberg told the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday that Facebook planned to add an African-American to its board of directors, a source familiar with the closed-door meeting said, but she offered no details.

Facebook found roughly 3,000 ads paid for by Russian operatives related to the 2016 campaign. The person said the ads were meant to inflame all sides, with some showing white police officers beating black people.