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Facebook to give Congress Russian-linked 2016 election ads

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday that the social media company will turn over to Congress thousands of ads believed to have been bought by Russian agents attempting to influence last year’s presidential election. Facebook officials said earlier this month that more than 3,000 ads were uncovered that ran between 2015 and 2017 and appeared to have come from a Russian entity that aimed to influence the election.

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  1. The move Thursday comes amid growing pressure on the social network from members of Congress, who pushed it to release the ads. Facebook has already handed over the ads to federal authorities investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
  2. "Facebook’s mission is all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together,” Zuckerberg said Thursday in an address streamed on Facebook. “Those are democratic values and we’re proud of them. I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy.”
  3. He said the company is working to the U.S. government on the investigation into Russian interference in the election and taking measures to make political advertising more transparent on the social media platform.
  4. “I wish I could tell you that we’re going to be able to stop all interference, but that just wouldn’t be realistic,” Zuckerberg said. “There will also be bad actors in the world and we can’t prevent all governments from interference. But we can make it harder. We can make it much harder.”
  5. He emphasized that the apparent attempts to influence the election were far eclipsed by the number of genuine political discussions and debates held on Facebook "that may have never happened before, offline."
  6. "We are in a new world. It is a new challenge for internet companies to have to deal with nation states attempting to subvert elections, but if that’s what we must do, then we are committed to rising to the occasion," he said.
  7. However, Zuckerberg said, the company is unlikely to provide much public information on the investigation, pointing to its ongoing nature.
  8. “As a general rule, we are limited in what we can discuss publicly about law enforcement investigations, so we may not always be able to share our findings publicly,” he said.
  9. The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee have been seeking to bring Facebook executives before their committee since the company first revealed the existence of the ads two weeks ago. But critics say Facebook should go further. They say the company should tell its users how they might have been influenced by outside meddlers.
  10. In a January report, the U.S. intelligence community determined with "high confidence" that Russian officials interferenced in the presidential election in favor of then-candidate Donald Trump. There is no evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with the foreign nation to win the election.
  11. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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