In a surprise about-face, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday that the company will turn over copies of more than 3,000 political ads to congressional committees investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.
While Zuckerberg said earlier this month that Facebook already had turned over the ads to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, the company initially declined to provide the material to Congress because of privacy concerns. Mueller is conducting a criminal investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow to defeat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.
“I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity,” said Zuckerberg in a video statement on his Facebook page. “I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine our democracy.”
The senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank, California, said in a statement that being able to look at the Facebook ads will help the committee “better understand what happened,” including how comprehensive Facebook’s internal investigation has been and what else may be yet be revealed.
“As we continue our investigation to get to the bottom of Russia’s multifaceted attack on our democratic process,” Schiff said, “I believe it will be necessary to hear directly from Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as others in the tech sector, including in open hearings that will inform the American public.”
In his video broadcast, Zuckerberg outlined a nine-step plan for Facebook to “protect election integrity,” which includes actively working with the U.S. government in its investigations into Russian interference in the electoral process, making political advertising more transparent, and strengthening the review process for political ads.