Senator Calls on Facebook to Release Political Ads Russians Spent $100K On
Social media companies need to start being more transparent about their roles in the U.S. presidential election, Sen.
Warner and other members of the Senate and House intelligence committees are working to uncover the role that social media companies played in political influence campaigns.
Facebook briefed congressional investigators yesterday, describing $100,000 worth of political ad buys that the company traced to 470 phony Russian accounts. Warner said Twitter has been asked to make similar disclosures. His office declined to comment on when Twitter representatives would present their findings.
Although Warner said he was pleased with Facebook's presentation, he added that he has more questions for the company and that the 470 accounts that Facebook flagged are likely only "the tip of the iceberg."
"I've been raising this issue for months. They have dismissed this issue for months. We've seen them take down certain pages. It's rather minor compared to the 50,000 accounts they took down before the French election and what we've been saying for some time I think has been proven to be true, that the Russians used these social media platforms to try to interfere in elections," Warner said. (In a white paper , Facebook said it took action against 30,000 fake accounts leading up to the French election.)
Warner also criticized Facebook for refusing to make the ads public. Facebook's chief security officer, Alex Stamos, described the ads as "amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum" and said that they covered a variety of political issues, including LGBT rights and gun control. Some of the ads were shown to congressional investigators, Warner explained.
"This was one of the disappointments. They shared the content with staff but, the public deserves to look at that content," he said.
Facebook, Twitter, and other companies are facing criticism for keeping the details of political advertising on their platforms secret. Unlike political television ads, ads on social media aren't subject to disclosure requirements that would reveal how the ads were funded.
"We're in a brave new world of how people receive information," Warner said. "I think we deserve to know if foreigners are trying to interfere in our elections."
Twitter declined to comment on Warner's remarks. Gizmodo contacted Facebook and will update if they respond.