Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg committed on Thursday to hardening his company’s defenses against countries like Russia that may have sought to spread misinformation and influence the outcome of elections in the United States and around the world.
In doing so, the social giant said it plans to turn over copies of political ads purchased by Russian sources ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Congress, where lawmakers are investigating potential interference by the Kremlin.
Initially, Facebook had only released the Russian-backed ads in question — 3,000 of them, valued at about $100,000 — to Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who is spearheading the government’s probe into Russia’s actions. Facebook had withheld those details from House and Senate leaders, citing privacy concerns.
But the move had drawn sharp rebukes from the likes of Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who has charged in recent days that Facebook may not have done enough to scan its systems for potential Russian influence and to ensure that such foreign purchases — otherwise illegal under U.S. law — don’t happen again.
“After an extensive legal and policy review, today we are announcing that we will also share these ads with congressional investigators,” wrote Colin Stretch, the company’s general counsel. “We believe it is vitally important that government authorities have the information they need to deliver to the public a full assessment of what happened in the 2016 election.”
Going forward, though, Zuckerberg promised to institute wholesale changes to the way in which the social giant handles politics. That includes new hires around the world to ensure election integrity and a fresh hub to help users track political ads, and who funds them.
“I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy,” he said on a rare Facebook Live to discuss the election. “That’s not what we stand for.”
Make no mistake, Zuckerberg’s public comments Thursday sought to tamp down a rising tide of criticism from Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have charged that Silicon Valley’s tech giants haven’t done enough to police the integrity of their powerful, global platforms. To that end, Warner praised Facebook for its decision Thursday.
Important & absolutely necessary first step. The American people deserve to know the truth about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. https://t.co/sy562ROb7S— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) September 21, 2017
But Facebook still must contend with the prospect of a congressional hearing on the ways in which Kremlin-aligned forces may have used its platform, a public session that could subject the social giant’s executives — not to mention its counterparts, perhaps, from Twitter and other companies — to a grilling by concerned lawmakers.
Facebook has spent the past 10 months dealing with the aftermath of last year’s presidential election — and the role the site may have unintentionally played in helping Donald Trump win the presidency. In the process, its statements have evolved dramatically.
Last November, Zuckerberg essentially dismissed the idea that Facebook had any influence on the outcome of the 2016 race. Months later, his company found that misinformation spread on its platform had rocked elections from the United States to France. And now, Zuckerberg himself has admitted that accounts tied to Russia may have orchestrated full campaigns on the network — and that foreign powers could continue to do so.
Read Zuckerberg’s full statement below.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.