Facebook is shopping for a new ad agency to help tout innovation amid the ongoing Russia fiasco

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
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    Facebook is shopping for a new ad agency amid its ongoing Russia fiasco. Facebook is calling upon agencies to devise a message centered on portraying it as an innovation company. Facebook says the strategy is not an effort to address the issue of Russian actors using Facebook to meddle in last year’s US election.

As it comes under fire for its role in enabling Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, Facebook is looking for help on the marketing front to emphasize a very different story.

Facebook has reached out to various advertising agencies to develop a strategy and advertising campaign, Business Insider has learned. The company has issued a request for proposals to multiple agencies in the past couple of weeks, multiple people have confirmed to Business Insider on the condition of anonymity.

Facebook is calling upon agencies to devise an effort centered on portraying Facebook as an innovation company, beyond its roots as a social network. It is specifically asking ad agencies for strategy and ad creative highlighting what it calls its innovation pillars – the role it is playing in the fields of augmented reality and virtual reality, for instance, according to one person familiar with the matter.

The person said the RFP did not directly mention the Russia issue but noted that the request had come amid perception issues related to it. Another person confirmed that there was no mention of the Russia controversy in the brief but also said the timing of the brief could not be overlooked.

Facebook is facing increasing backlash for the way its platform was used to spread fake news and propaganda ahead of the 2016 US presidential election. The company, along with Google and Twitter, appeared before the Senate this week to testify about state-sponsored meddling in US politics through social networks.

Facebook said the advertising brief was not designed to address Russian actors’ use of Facebook to meddle in the US election and was instead part of routine marketing efforts.

“If you think it’s news to people that a consumer-technology brand is furthering its ongoing marketing efforts, so be it,” a Facebook representative told Business Insider. “The reality is this is part of a sustained effort to help people better understand the work we do.”

The reputations of social-media services like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus have taken a hit in the aftermath of the crisis, according to Kantar’s recent “Trust in News” study. More than half (54%) of the people polled said they trusted news coverage of politics and elections less on social platforms than they did in 2016.

Facebook took out full-page ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post on October 4 in an effort to directly defend itself amid the controversy. In the ads, Facebook said it would take immediate actions to “fight any attempt to interfere with elections or civic engagement on Facebook.”

It has since taken several steps to make advertising more transparent and to enforce stronger ad policies. Just last week, for instance, Facebook announced that advertisers running federal-election-related ads in the US would be required to verify their identity as well as run disclosures on each ad.

All the parties who discussed the brief said the process remained in its early stages and were unsure of the exact number of ad agencies involved in the pitch.