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House lawmakers could make public some of the Russia-backed ads that appeared on Facebook before the 2016 election

Facebook turned over those 3,000 ads to congressional investigators earlier today.

Rep. Adam Schiff Holds News Conference On Russia Investigation
Rep. Adam Schiff
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

A top Democratic lawmaker who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election wants Facebook to release at least some of the controversial political ads purchased by Kremlin-backed sources.

Facebook turned over those ads — roughly 3,000 of them in total, valued at more than $100,000 — to investigators on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees earlier Monday. Some of the posts specifically sought to stoke racial, religious or other social tensions by stirring conflict around issues like Black Lives Matter, gun control and gay rights.

But Rep. Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House’s panel, said he planned to work with Facebook to release “a representative sampling” of the ads to the public — just in time for a hearing slated for October on the extent to which Russia spread misinformation through social networks.

The goal, Schiff said, is to “inoculate the public against future Russian interference in our elections.”

“But I am also committed to making all of these ads public as soon as possible,” he continued in a statement, “working closely with Facebook to address any privacy considerations."

For now, Facebook has not yet confirmed if it plans to attend the House’s expected October hearing, or if it will dispatch an executive to testify before the Senate’s inquiry, scheduled for Nov. 1. The company also shared the 3,000 ads purchased by Russian sources with a third congressional panel, the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is also investigating the matter. A spokesman for the panel’s leader, Sen. Chuck Grassley, did not comment for this story.

For Schiff and others, though, an early goal of their inquiry is to determine “what groups and individuals were most heavily targeted and why,” the lawmaker said in a statement. “We will continue to work with Facebook and other tech companies to determine the full extent of Russia’s use of online platforms, including paid advertising, since what we now know may only scratch the surface.”

Facebook also committed on Monday to adopt additional checks against the spread of misinformation on the site. That includes a pledge to hire 1,000 new employees to review ads, for example, along with new investments into machine-learning tools to “better understand when to flag and take down ads.”

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