Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will release the Russia ads to investigators


Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday that his company will
release the $100,000-worth of ads affiliated with Russia to
government investigators.

“I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its
integrity,” he said during a live
broadcast 
on
his Facebook page
. “I don’t want anyone to use our tools to
undermine our democracy.

Zuckerberg outlined steps his company is taking, including the
delivery of the ads themselves to government officials, to
“protect election integrity” and “make sure Facebook is a force
for good in democracy.”

“We are in a new world,” Zuckerberg said. “It is a new
challenge for internet communities to deal with nation states
attempting to subvert elections. But if that’s what we must do,
we are committed to rising to the occasion.”

As part of Zuckerberg’s announced changes, Facebook will
start disclosing which pages on its social network paid for
political ads on its platform — a move that democrats on
Capitol Hill
urged the Federal Election Commission to force
this week. He
also said that Facebook would investigate how the Trump and
Clinton campaigns used its tools to reach voters.

Facebook
disclosed earlier this month
that Russian-affiliated accounts
purchased $100,000 worth of ads in the months surrounding 2016’s
US presidential election. But the company has yet to publicly
reveal the ads themselves or how they were targeted to members of
its 2-billion-user network.

The vice chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark
Warner, said Wednesday that
there are likely “a lot more” fake Facebook accounts

affiliated with Russia than what the company has so far disclosed
in private briefings with committee staffers. He said the
committee, which is tasked with uncovering any Russian
interference with US elections, plans to call Facebook executives
to publically testify on Capitol Hill in October.

Below you can read a full transcript of Zuckerberg’s Thursday
speech, which includes 9 steps the company is taking to prevent
future government interference with elections:

“Today is my first day back in the office after taking parental
leave. It was really special to be with Priscilla and August
after she was born, and to get to spend some more time with
Max.

While I was out on leave, I spent a lot of time with our teams
on the question of Russian interference in the US elections. I
made some decisions on the next steps we’re taking, and I want
to share those with you now.

First, let me say this. I care deeply about the democratic
process and protecting its integrity. Facebook’s mission is all
about giving people a voice and bringing people closer
together. Those are deeply democratic values and we’re proud of
them. I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine
democracy. That’s not what we stand for.

The integrity of our elections is fundamental to democracy
around the world. That’s why we’ve built teams dedicated to
working on election integrity and preventing governments from
interfering in the elections of other nations. And as we’ve
shared before, our teams have found and shut down thousands of
fake accounts that could be attempting to influence elections
in many countries, including recently in the French elections.

Now, I wish I could tell you we’re going to be able to stop all
interference, but that wouldn’t be realistic. There will always
be bad people in the world, and we can’t prevent all
governments from all interference. But we can make it harder.
We can make it a lot harder. And that’s what we’re going to do.

So today I want to share the steps we’re taking to protect
election integrity and make sure that Facebook is a force for
good in democracy. While the amount of problematic content
we’ve found so far remains relatively small, any attempted
interference is a serious issue. Here are 9 things we’ll be
working on over the next few months:

1. We are actively working with the US government on its
ongoing investigations into Russian interference. We have been
investigating this for many months, and for a while we had
found no evidence of fake accounts linked to Russia running
ads. When we recently uncovered this activity, we provided that
information to the special counsel. We also briefed Congress —
and this morning I directed our team to provide the ads we’ve
found to Congress as well. 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. But we support Congress in deciding how to
best use this information to inform the public, and we expect
the government to publish its findings when their investigation
is complete.

2. We will continue our investigation into what happened on
Facebook in this election. We may find more, and if we do, we
will continue to work with the government. We are looking into
foreign actors, including additional Russian groups and other
former Soviet states, as well as organizations like the
campaigns, to further our understanding of how they used our
tools. These investigations will take some time, but we will
continue our thorough review.

3. Going forward — and perhaps the most important step we’re
taking — we’re going to make political advertising more
transparent. When someone buys political ads on TV or other
media, they’re required by law to disclose who paid for them.
But you still don’t know if you’re seeing the same messages as
everyone else. So we’re going to bring Facebook to an even
higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to
disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so
you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re
currently running to any audience on Facebook. We will roll
this out over the coming months, and we will work with others
to create a new standard for transparency in online political
ads.

4. We will strengthen our ad review process for political ads.
To be clear, it has always been against our policies to use any
of our tools in a way that breaks the law — and we already
have many controls in place to prevent this. But we can do
more. Most ads are bought programmatically through our apps and
website without the advertiser ever speaking to anyone at
Facebook. That’s what happened here. But even without our
employees involved in the sales, we can do better.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you we’re going to
catch all bad content in our system. We don’t check what people
say before they say it, and frankly, I don’t think our society
shouldn’t want us to. Freedom means you don’t have to ask
permission first, and that by default you can say what you
want. If you break our community standards or the law, then
you’re going to face consequences afterwards. We won’t catch
everyone immediately, but we can make it harder to try to
interfere.

5. We are increasing our investment in security and
specifically election integrity. In the next year, we will more
than double the team working on election integrity. In total,
we’ll add more than 250 people across all our teams focused on
security and safety for our community.

6. We will expand our partnerships with election commissions
around the world. We already work with electoral commissions in
many countries to help people register to vote and learn about
the issues. We’ll keep doing that, and now we’re also going to
establish a channel to inform election commissions of the
online risks we’ve identified in their specific elections.

7. We will increase sharing of threat information with other
tech and security companies. We already share information on
bad actors on the internet through programs like
ThreatExchange, and now we’re exploring ways we can share more
information about anyone attempting to interfere with
elections. It is important that tech companies collaborate on
this because it’s almost certain that any actor trying to
misuse Facebook will also be trying to abuse other internet
platforms too.

8. We are working proactively to strengthen the democratic
process. Beyond pushing back against threats, we will also
create more services to protect our community while engaging in
political discourse. For example, we’re looking at adapting our
anti-bullying systems to protect against political harassment
as well, and we’re scaling our ballot information tools to help
more people understand the issues.

9. We have been working to ensure the integrity of the German
elections this weekend, from taking actions against thousands
of fake accounts, to partnering with public authorities like
the Federal Office for Information Security, to sharing
security practices with the candidates and parties. We’re also
examining the activity of accounts we’ve removed and have not
yet found a similar type of effort in Germany. This is
incredibly important and we have been focused on this for a
while.

At the same time, it’s important not to lose sight of the more
straightforward and larger ways Facebook plays a role in
elections — and these effects operate at much larger scales of
100x or 1000x bigger than what we’re discussing here.
In 2016, people had billions of interactions and open
discussions on Facebook that may never have happened offline.
Candidates had direct channels to communicate with tens of
millions of citizens. Campaigns spent tens of millions
organizing and advertising online to get their messages out
further. And we organized “get out the vote” efforts that
helped as many as 2 million people register to vote who might
not have voted otherwise. Many of these dynamics were new in
this election, or at much larger scale than ever before in
history, and at much larger scale than the interference we’ve
found.

But we are in a new world. It is a new challenge for internet
communities to deal with nation states attempting to subvert
elections. But if that’s what we must do, we are committed to
rising to the occasion. Our sophistication in handling these
threats is growing and improving quickly. We will continue
working with the government to understand the full extent of
Russian interference, and we will do our part not only to
ensure the integrity of free and fair elections around the
world, but also to give everyone a voice and to be a force for
good in democracy everywhere.

Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll keep you updated with more
soon.”

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