- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2017

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Thursday that she supports the public release of Russian-linked ads that ran on the social media site around the time of the 2016 presidential election.

“Things happened on our platform in this election that should not have happened, especially — and very troubling — foreign interference in a democratic election,” Ms. Sandberg said.

But highlighting a potential problem in cracking down on Russian propaganda ads in the future, she said that if the same content of the ads was being shared by real Facebook users, rather than Russian-run troll accounts, the company would not remove the content.

“A lot of them, if they were run by legitimate people, we would let them run,” Ms. Sandberg said Thursday during an interview at the Newseum in D.C. with Axios’ Mike Allen. “We don’t allow hate, we don’t allow violence, we don’t allow bullying. But a lot of what we allow on Facebook is people expressing themselves. The thing about free expressions is that when you allow free expression, you allow free expression.”

That means allowing people to use the platform “to say things you don’t like and go against your core beliefs,” she said.

“And it’s not just content, it’s ads,” she said.

Ms. Sandberg’s comments came a day after she met with members of Congress who are investigating Russian interference in the presidential election.

Congressional leaders emerged from the meetings Wednesday saying they intend to release the political ads to the public, but likely not before Nov. 1 — the day technology companies have been invited to testify before Congress.

On Thursday, Ms. Sandberg said Facebook is committed to helping lawmakers ensure the Russian ads and content are released to the public and the company is working to improve how it handles this type of propaganda campaign in the future.

“We think its important they get the whole picture and that they explain that transparently to the American public,” she said.

Ms. Sandberg offered an apology to the American people.

“It’s not just that we apologize. We are angry we’re upset. But what we really owe the American people is determination,” she said. “We are determined.”

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