Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg to meet with Russian Federation investigators on Capitol Hill

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.   Drew Angerer  Getty Images

The sprawling inquiry into the extent of Russian attempts to purchase ads on the U.S. internet before the 2016 USA federal elections has expanded to yet another digital giant, with Microsoft confirming that it has launched an internal investigation into whether it sold such advertisements via its Bing search engine.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who is leading the panel's Russian Federation investigation, said the committee will release about 3,000 ads provided to the panel by Facebook.

The House intelligence committee will release copies of the election-related Facebook ads that were purchased by Russian-linked accounts, the committee leaders said Wednesday.

Asked if he believed political ads on social media should contain the same disclaimers as those that run on television, Conaway showed reluctance, telling the reporters: "That will be a part of the conversation when we understand exactly what all happened". The company has already provided the information of 3000 ads purchased from Russian fake accounts, for which more than $100,000 was spent by the Russian agency to Congress. Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, paying $1 billion in cash and stock.

In addition to Facebook, Alphabet's Google and Twitter have recently detected that suspected Russian operatives used their platforms previous year to purchase ads and post content that was politically divisive. Lawmakers in both parties had previously said they wanted to make the ads public. The Senate Intelligence Committee is also holding an open hearing with the three companies that day.


"My personal bias is that we'll do it as quick as we can", said Rep. Mike Conaway, the Texas Republican leading the investigation on the House Intelligence Committee. "After we do that, we'll release them publicly".

Schiff said Sandberg wanted to calm members of Congress, who were initially concerned that the company was reluctant to share information and to ensure that foreign governments don't wage information campaigns in USA elections.

Type in any search with "Russia" and "Facebook" and the result at the top of Google will be an ad from the social network. At the end of September, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) penned a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking that the company "ensure that discriminatory and tactically divisive ad-targeting is aggressively prevented". Some members of the caucus have been critical of Facebook over the ads, many of which had racial themes.

Elliot Schrage, vice president of Policy and Communications at Facebook, said: "The threats we're confronting are bigger than any one company, or even any one industry".

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