- Stephen Lam/Reuters
Facebook won’t publicly release the roughly 3,000 ads linked to Russia and purchased on its platform despite calls to do so by congressional investigators on Wednesday, a person close to the company told Business Insider.
A Facebook spokesperson told BI early last month that the company was “unable” to release the ads because of “both federal law and the fact that investigations are ongoing with the relevant authorities.”
A person familiar with the matter confirmed Wednesday that multiple ongoing investigations into Russian election interference, including special counsel Robert Mueller’s separate probe into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian government, are still hindering Facebook from releasing the ads.
“Due to ongoing investigations, including the special counsel, the company is limited in what it can release,” the person said. A spokesperson for Mueller declined to comment.
But Facebook does plan to testify in a public hearing alongside Google and Twitter on November 1 about Russia’s use of social media to influence elections and the disclosure of political advertising online, according to a company spokesperson.
Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner of the US Senate Intelligence Committee called on Facebook to publicly release the ads, which have already been privately handed over to committee staffers investigating Russia’s meddling in US elections, during a press conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
“I think at the end of the day it’s important that the public see these ads,” said Warner, the committee’s vice chairman.
So while Mueller’s investigation is keeping Facebook’s Russia-linked ads from seeing the light of day, Warner and Burr of the Senate Intelligence Committee made clear on Wednesday that they approved of the social network releasing the ads publicly.
“We don’t release documents provided to our committee, period,” Burr told reporters. “Clearly if any of the social media companies would like to do that, we’re fine with them doing it.”
Facebook disclosed this week that 10 million of its users saw the ads before and after the election, and that most of the ads focused on “divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum” like LGBT issues, immigration, and gun rights.
A recent CNN report said some of the Russia-linked ads were specifically targeted at people in Michigan and Wisconsin, two battleground states that were critical in helping President Donald Trump win last November’s election.
With additional reporting by Steve Kovach.
(Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information about special counsel Mueller’s investigation as it pertains to Facebook’s Russia-linked ads.)