Facebook apologizes for allowing Russian ads to interfere with 2016 campaign

A top Facebook executive said Thursday that the company regrets how Russian influence on the social network played out in the run-up to last year’s presidential election.

“We know we have a responsibility to prevent everything we can from this happening on our platforms,” COO Sheryl Sandberg told Axios. “So we told Congress and the Intelligence committees that when they are ready to release the ads, we are ready to help them.”

On Wednesday, leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating the connections between the ads and the election, said it would publicly release thousands of ads.

Facebook seems to now be making high-level executives available to media this week, but they don’t appear to be providing lengthy or substantive public information. Sandberg’s remarks come as Facebook is under newfound scrutiny in the wake of reports that Russia used online ads to stoke various political opinions and possibly influence the 2016 presidential election.

Sandberg characterized the Russian ads and the prevalence of fake news as a “new threat,” and she added that the company must offer “not just an apology, but determination for our role in enabling Russian interference during the election.”

She didn’t answer a later question as to whether the Trump campaign and the Russian-bought ads targeted the same users. “Targeting is something that everyone uses,” she said. “When the ads get released we will be releasing the targeting for those ads.”

Meanwhile, another Facebook executive said the company plans to change how it accepts political ads in the run-up to the November 2018 mid-term elections in the United States. CTO Mike Schroepfer told Reuters on Wednesday that the company was “working on all of this stuff actively now.”

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