Published: Fri, October 13, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Ellis Neal

Congressional Black Caucus Chides Sandberg Over Lack Of Diversity At Facebook

Congressional Black Caucus Chides Sandberg Over Lack Of Diversity At Facebook

A top executive at Facebook says that Congress should publicly release ads purchased by Russia-linked accounts on the social media site.

Sandberg's meeting with the caucus was just the latest stop in an apology tour launched after Facebook faced harsh criticism for denying, back tracking, then finally admitting the key role it played in Russia's disinformation campaign.

Despite public promises of cooperation from Facebook and other social media companies, congressional investigators are battling over how much data the companies should hand over to them on Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

Sandberg, who was in Washington for meetings with US lawmakers, told the congressional black caucus on Thursday that Facebook planned to add an African-American to its board of directors, a source familiar with the closed-door meeting said, but she offered no details. The company and others have said they are turning over information, but also that they are legally obligated to protect their users' privacy.

Asked if that meant providing data on how ads were targeted to specific groups of people, Sandberg said Facebook was prepared to do so. If the company accepts that it is a media firm, it would open the platform up to regulatory rules in the United States and other countries which Facebook would rather avoid.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian Federation used cyber-enabled means in an attempt to help Trump win the White House, an allegation the Kremlin has denied.

Last month, Facebook agreed to hand over the ads to congressional investigators in addition to special counsel Robert Mueller. However, congressional investigators say that if Russian messengers used fake identities, they would have no legal claims to privacy.

Sources familiar with Facebook's contacts with Congress said that as recently as July this year, company officials were denying the existence of any paid Russian messaging, and only later acknowledged that the company had found $100,000 in sponsored traffic linked to 478 Facebook accounts. We're angry, we're upset.

"None of us should want this kind of foreign interference and in others to prevent it, we are all going to have to fully cooperate with each other, with government, across the board", Sandberg said.

In an interview with US-based news website Axios on Thursday, she said, "At our heart we are a tech company". Twitter later reversed its decision. "But the question is, 'Should divisive political or issue ads run?' Our answer is yes because when you cut off speech for one person you cut off speech for all people", she said.

Business Insider said Britain was already considering regulations that would treat Facebook more like a media company. Representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter are expected to testify about Russian influence at hearings before the Senate and House intelligence committees on November 1.

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