Facebook is releasing 3,000 Russia-linked ads to Congress and making all ads open to the public

Key Points
  • The data Facebook planned to turn over included copies of some 3,000 ads that the social network says were bought likely by people in Russia in the months before and after the 2016 election.
  • Facebook has seen increased pressure in recent weeks to make its advertising practices more transparent.
  • Facebook has yet to release the Russia-linked ads to the public, and it's unclear under this new announcement whether it will.
Getty Images

Facebook appears to be bending to recent pressure for more transparent advertising practices, announcing Monday that users will have access to ads on the platform even if they're not in the target audience, according to a company statement.

The company also said it plans to hire 1,000 more people to better review ads, and will turn over 3,000 ads to Congress that the social network says were likely bought by people in Russia in the months before and after the 2016 U.S. election.

Last month, in response to calls from U.S. lawmakers, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg pledged to hand over the ads to congressional investigators who are looking into alleged Russian involvement in the U.S. presidential election, but he had left the timing unclear.

The company has also so far declined to release the Russia-linked ads to the public, and it's unclear whether it will as part of this new announcement.

Facebook, the world's largest social network, has become a primary platform for internet political ads because it has a wide reach and gives advertisers powerful targeting capabilities. For that reason, it may possess valuable clues for U.S. investigators.

Facebook has already provided information about Russia-linked ads to U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller, who is also investigating alleged election meddling, a source said last month.

Moscow has denied any meddling in last year's U.S. election, in which Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Facebook said on Sunday it would provide to Congress copies of the ads it has found, as well as related data such as whom the ads were targeted at and how much each ad cost.

The materials would be turned over to the intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives, and to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Facebook said.

The $100,000 in ads linked to Russia focused on amplifying divisive U.S. social and political messages, Facebook said last month. Some ads mentioned Muslim support for Clinton, promoted in-person events and weighed in on the Black Lives Matter protests against police shootings, according to media reports.

The emergence of Facebook as a battleground for government-sponsored propaganda has become a major challenge for the social network's corporate image.

Zuckerberg, in Facebook posts last month, disclosed a series of steps he said the company would take to prevent governments from manipulating it and said he had earlier been wrong to dismiss the possibility of Facebook being used in such a way.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat, has likened digital political advertising to the "Wild, Wild West," and he and others have called for legislation to impose disclosure requirements similar to what is required in the United States for political ads on television.

- CNBC's Sara Salinas contributed to this report.