Facebook has revealed that it will provide Congress with the advertisements that were purchase by the Russian entity Internet Research Agency throughout 2015 to 2017. The advertisements came to light a couple weeks ago when Facebook revealed that the Russian agency had bought in excess of 3,000 ads targeting both political and social issues in the United States.
The issue has been a contentious one since Facebook revealed it a couple weeks ago. The approximately 3,000 ads bought by the Russian-linked entity cost about $100,000 and were linked to about 470 various Facebook Pages and accounts the company said were ‘inauthentic’ and in violation of Facebook policies. “Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia,” the company had said.
The Russia-purchased advertisements largely focused on ‘amplifying divisive social and political messages’ including matters related to guns, race, LGBT, and immigration. Facebook had stated that about a quarter of the ads were geo-targeted and most of them weren’t directly about the US presidential election (the phrasing indicating that some of them were).
It was a huge revelation, one that has stirred up controversy for the social network which thus far had carefully skirted around public demands for greater transparency about the matter. Russian meddling is a hot topic issue at the moment and news that the nation had paid a US company to spread its own propaganda was — and continues to be — a major concern for many.
In a statement made today, Facebook revealed that it will turn over the advertisements to congressional investigators. The company said that it struggled over this decision, pointing toward a policy of protecting user content while stressing that ‘ads are user content.’ Talking about this, the company said in part:
Over recent weeks, we have grappled with the extraordinary nature of this particular investigation through this lens … We believe the public deserves a full accounting of what happened in the 2016 election, and we’ve concluded that sharing the ads we’ve discovered, in a manner that is consistent with our obligations to protect user information, can help.