Facebook’s Sandberg meets with congressional leaders on Russia ads

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will meet with Sheryl Sandberg Wednesday afternoon, one stop on the Facebook chief operating officer’s tour in D.C. after revelations that Russia relied heavily on the social media site in its attempts to influence the 2016 election.

Pelosi didn’t divulge many details about the meeting but hinted that Russian meddling would be discussed, saying “some of the things you could imagine” are expected to come up.

“I don’t have an agenda. We’ll see what her agenda is too,” the California Democrat told reporters. Sandberg and Pelosi will meet at 3 p.m. according to a source.

Sandberg also plans to meet with Reps. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) Wednesday, the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe. And she will huddle with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday morning.

Facebook is under pressure from lawmakers and investigators from House and Senate Intelligence Committees as they dig into the role the social media site played in selling ads to Russians seeking to influence the 2016 election. Sandberg and CEO Mark Zuckerberg are among the Facebook officials who have been making calls to share the company’s perspective as the investigations continue, a source familiar with the situation told POLITICO Tuesday.

The Senate Intelligence Committee last week joined intelligence officials in confirming that Russia used Facebook’s advertising platform, as well as the ability to make fake accounts and use other social media tools to foment political division in the United States.

Facebook has revealed at least $100,000 in ad spending by Russia-linked accounts intended to influence U.S. politics, but so far the ads haven’t been publicly revealed, although the company has shared the ads with the House and Senate intelligence panels.

Senate Intelligence leaders have said it’s up to Facebook to release the ad content if it wants. NBC reported Wednesday that the House Intelligence Committee plans to release the ads.

Some lawmakers are also discussing whether to pass a law that would force social media advertisers to disclose the source of their spending, just as television advertisers are already required to do.

The CBC, long a critic of the lack of workforce diversity at Facebook and other tech companies, is now urging Facebook and Twitter to curb Russia-linked ads.

A congressional source said the CBC plans to press Sandberg on Facebook’s ongoing diversity issue, saying it is one reason the social media site failed to quickly identify the Russian-bought ads promoting Black Lives Matter were aimed at exploiting racial tensions in the U.S.

CBC Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) sent a letter to Facebook and Twitter last week requesting the two companies share the Russian-bought ads more broadly with members of Congress and brief lawmakers on the scope of the Kremlin’s social media activity.

Facebook and Twitter have said they plan to send representatives to testify before Intelligence Committee investigators. Google is also invited but has not said whether it plans to attend.

Facebook briefed congressional investigators last week on its internal probe into Russian-linked election ads. The company said 10 million people saw ads placed by Russia’s Internet Research Agency.


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