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Facebook will share Russian political ads with Congress on Monday

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Facebook will hand over approximately 3,000 political ads purchased by Russian sources during the 2016 U.S. presidential election to members of Congress on Monday.

Along with the ads, Facebook plans to share other data — including information about the users those ads targeted and how they were paid for — with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee, a spokesperson told Recode.

All three committees are investigating the extent to which Russia may have interfered in last fall’s U.S. presidential election.

Facebook previously promised to hand over the Kremlin-tied ads, which were purchased in the months leading up to the election and are valued at more than $100,000. Some of them sought to stoke racial, religious and other social tensions in a bid to stir political unrest, sources told Recode in September, particularly around issues like gun control and Black Lives Matter.

Facebook’s move is the latest in what has become a dramatic dance between Silicon Valley and Congress, as both sides try to figure out if Russian sources co-opted technology platforms to sway public opinion and spread misinformation during the election.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has officially invited Facebook — along with other tech companies, including Twitter and Google — to formally testify about the roles their platforms played in last year’s election at a public hearing on Nov. 1. The House hopes to hold its own hearing in October, but has not announced a date or invited any witnesses to appear.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the company has received an invitation to testify from the Senate Intel Committee, and that it is cooperating with the panel’s investigation. But the spokesperson added that the company has not yet decided whether or not it will testify.

Sharing ads and data with the Senate Judiciary Committee — a third congressional body investigating potential Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election — could further expose the tech industry to tougher public political scrutiny.

For weeks, lawmakers on the panel have been silent as Facebook and Twitter have revealed Kremlin-backed efforts on their platforms. Once it has Facebook’s ad data, however, the committee could easily demand more from tech companies — including their testimony at yet another hearing in the coming months.

Spokespeople for the panel’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, and its top Democratic lawmaker, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Facebook has also shared ad materials and data with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is running a separate investigation into Russian interference during last year’s election on behalf of the Department of Justice. It is unclear if Congress is receiving all of the same ads that Mueller and his team did.

Facebook has admitted that in addition to the political ads, Russian sources used the service to spread so-called fake news in the lead-up to the election.


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