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Lawmakers plan to release Russia-linked Facebook ads

The divisive ads are part of an investigation into Russian-linked attempts to sway public opinion during last year's election.

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Facebook will publicly share the divisive ads purchased by Russian-linked operatives.

Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Congressional leaders say they plan to publicly release thousands of politically divisive Facebook ads purchased by Russian-linked operatives during the 2016 US presidential election.

Representatives Mike Conaway and Adam Schiff, leaders of the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation, said Wednesday that they were working with the company to release the ads publicly after meeting with Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

"We've asked for Facebook's help to help scrub any personally identifiable information, but it's our hope that when they conclude, then we can release them publicly," Schiff told reporters Wednesday.

Sandberg said in a blog post late Wednesday that Facebook will work with the committee to release the ads.

"We have committed to working with them to do this in a way that protects peoples' privacy," Sandberg wrote. "We care deeply about the integrity of our democratic process and we are deeply upset by foreign interference on our platform."

Conaway said any release would likely come after a Nov. 1 hearing at which officials from Facebook, Google parent Alphabet and Twitter are expected to testify.

The committee, which is investigating allegations of Russian meddling with the election, recently received 3,000 ads allegedly purchased by Russian operatives seeking to influence public opinion and promote divisiveness in the US. Facebook has said about 10 million of the social network's users saw the ads before and after the election.

Sandberg, the social network's No. 2 executive, was in the nation's capital to discuss the controversial ads with lawmakers. Facebook has sent records of the ads to government investigators looking into Russia's alleged meddling in last year's presidential election.

Facebook isn't alone. Twitter told congressional investigators last month that it had discovered 201 accounts that appear to be tied to the same Russian accounts that purchased ads on Facebook. Russian operatives also spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on YouTube, Gmail and Google search, Google revealed earlier this month.

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