Facebook Inc. (FB - Get Report) COO Sheryl Sandberg said the public should be able to view "absolutely all" of the ads bought by Russian actors during the 2016 election, in the first public interview with a Facebook executive since information about the Russian efforts was revealed.
The social media giant has been cooperating with U.S. lawmakers who are investigating Russian attempts to spread divisive advertisements, fake news and other disinformation, Sandberg said on Thursday in an interview with Axios. She said Facebook also wants help from the U.S. intelligence community to identify any additional fake accounts.
"Things happened on our platform this election that should not have happened," Sandberg explained. "Especially foreign interference in a democratic election. We have the responsibility to prevent this kind of abuse."
The comments came as Sandberg has been meeting with legislators in Washington, D.C. this week to try and contain the fallout from revelations that Russian actors bought ads to sway the 2016 presidential election. In recent days, she met with the Congressional Black Caucus to address their concerns about the Russian ads.
She also held a meeting with leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation, who determined that they would release Facebook ads linked to Russian meddling sometime after Facebook, Twitter Inc. (TWTR - Get Report) and Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL - Get Report) testify to Congress on Nov. 1.
Sandberg said Facebook also plans to make public the Facebook Pages that were tied to the ads, as well as any ad targeting information used by the Russian actors.
"We think it's really important that the American people get the whole picture," Sandberg said.
Reports have indicated that the ads include images and rhetoric meant to further the divide between Democrats and Republicans. Sandberg described some of the ads as containing "hate and violence." Interestingly, she pointed out that if the advertisements had been posted by real accounts, Facebook would have kept them up on the site.
"If a lot of them were run by legit people, we would have let them run," Sandberg explained. "When you allow free expression, you allow free expression. You allow people to say things you don't like."
As Facebook and other U.S. tech giants prepare to testify on the Hill, lawmakers are also examining whether the companies should be subject to stricter political ad regulations. Democratic legislators are said to be working on a bill that would online political ads to disclose their funding sources. The bill could be introduced in just a few weeks.
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