Sheryl Sandberg: Russian Targeting On Facebook 'Should Not Have Happened'

Facebook owes America an apology, she said.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg acknowledged on Thursday that “things happened on our platform in [the 2016 election] that should not have happened,” and Americans deserve an apology for that.

“We’re angry, we’re upset, and what we really owe the American people is determination,” Sandberg said in an interview with Axios’ Mike Allen in Washington concerning the discovery that Russian-backed groups ran ads on Facebook aimed at influencing the election.

“As early as we heard any rumors we started investigating,” she said. Expressing support for public release of the ads, she said: “We don’t want this kind of foreign interference, we’re all going to have to fully cooperate” with investigations into the meddling.

“We know that we have a responsibility to do everything we kind to prevent this kind of abuse on our platform,” she said.

Allen noted that Facebook removed the ads because they came from fake accounts. He asked Sandberg about Facebook’s policy that had they come from real accounts, they would have remained on the platform.

Sandberg replied using the example of Twitter’s removal of a recent ad in which by Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-Tenn.), who is running for the Senate in 2018, discussed the sale of baby body parts. Facebook, Sandberg said, would have run the ad.

“The question is should divisive political or issue ads be run? Our answer is yes,” she said. But she also added: “We don’t allow hate, we don’t allow violence. We don’t allow bullying.”

The scope of Facebook’s tacit involvement in last year’s election continues to broaden. It told Congress last month that it had sold 3,000 ads to groups linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-run organization.

The company now plans to manually moderate the ads submitted to Facebook.

The House intelligence committee met with Sandberg in a closed-door session on Wednesday. Members said they plan to release copies of the Russia-backed Facebook ads that were turned over to Congress in the coming weeks.

Facebook also plans to release the targeting for those ads, Sandbeg said. “We’re going to be fully transparent.”

“I think there’s a lot of interest in the committee on the progress of Facebook’s internal investigation, when they discovered what they discovered, how exhaustive their review has been, what more forensics need to be done,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Wednesday.

Ads on Google and Twitter have also been linked to Russia. Sandberg told Allen Facebook is working with other companies so that “when anyone identifies a threat, we can get them off of all of our platforms.”