Zuckerberg: I Don't Want Facebook Used to Undermine Democracy

Facebook to reveal ads bought by Russian-linked accounts during election, reform the way political ads are managed on site

FILE- In this May 25, 2017, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the commencement address at Harvard University commencement exercises in Cambridge, Mass. Technology companies and executives of other industries criticized the Trump administration for its plan to undo protections for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants and called on Congress to help them. Zuckerberg called the decision "a sad day for our country" in a post , adding that it is "particularly cruel to offer young people the American Dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it." (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
Steven Senne/AP

Facebook Inc on Thursday launched an overhaul of how it handles paid political advertisements on the world's largest social network, responding to criticism that it has not done enough to prevent the manipulation of elections. 

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the company would start by sharing with U.S. congressional investigators some 3,000 political ads that it says Russia-based operatives ran on Facebook in the months before and after last year's U.S. presidential election. 

Earlier this month, Facebook said an operation likely based in Russia spent $100,000 on thousands of Facebook ads promoting divisive messages. 

U.S. congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller are examining alleged Russian election interference, which Moscow has denied. 

Zuckerberg, who has remained largely silent on the subject for months, said in a live broadcast on Facebook that the company was taking nine steps to prevent governments from using the network to interfere with each other's elections. 

"I don't want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That's not what we stand for," Zuckerberg said. 

>> Mark Zuckerberg 2020: Facebook CEO doesn't want to be president, he wants to be god | Opinion <<

In one change, Facebook will make it possible for anyone to see any political ad that runs on Facebook, no matter whom it targets. Transparency advocates, academics and others have called for the change for months. 

Facebook also agreed to require political advertisers to disclose who is paying for the advertisements, currently a requirement for political ads on television but not on social media. 

The comments were a marked shift for the Facebook founder, who days after the November 2016 U.S. election said it was a "crazy idea" to think that misinformation on Facebook swayed the vote toward President Donald Trump. 

Zuckerberg said Facebook would also expand partnerships with election commissions around the world; adapt systems to help deter political bullying; and examine activities of Facebook accounts that the company removed in advance of the upcoming German election. 

Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said in a separate blog post on Thursday that the social network treads carefully when releasing information about users or advertisers, but that the company wants to help protect the integrity of U.S. elections. 

"We believe the public deserves a full accounting of what happened in the 2016 election," Stretch wrote.