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Facebook announces new transparency

WASHINGTON (AP)  Under pressure in advance of hearings on Russian election interference, Facebook is moving to increase transparency for everyone who sees and buys political advertising on its site.

Executives for the social media company said Friday they will verify political ad buyers in federal elections, requiring them to reveal correct names and locations. The site will also create new graphics where users can click on the ads and find out more about who's behind them.

More broadly, Rob Goldman, Facebook's vice president in charge of ad products, said the company is building new transparency tools in which all advertisers  even those that aren't political  are associated with a page, and users can click on a link to see all of the ads any advertiser is running.

Users also will be able to see all of the ads paid for by the advertisers, whether or not those ads were originally targeted toward them.

The move comes after the company acknowledged it had found more than 3,000 ads linked to Russia that focused on divisive U.S. social issues and were seen by an estimated 10 million people before and after the 2016 U.S. elections.

Facebook, Twitter and Google will testify in Congress next Tuesday and Wednesday on how their platforms were used by Russia or other foreign actors in the election campaign. The Senate and House intelligence committees and the Senate Judiciary Committee are all holding hearings as part of their investigations into Russian election interference.

Facebook's announcement comes a day after Twitter said it will ban ads from RT and Sputnik, two state-sponsored Russian news outlets. Twitter also has said it will require election-related ads for candidates to disclose who is paying for them and how they are targeted.

Facebook's Goldman said the company also will build a new archive of federal election ads on Facebook, including the total amount spent and the number of times an ad is displayed. The archive, which will be public for anyone to search, would also have data on the audience that saw the ads, including gender and location information. The archive would eventually hold up to four years of data.

Goldman said the company is still building the new features. They plan to test them in Canada and roll them out in the United States by next summer ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

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