Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said his company will turn over thousands of ads it sold to various Russian-linked accounts to the Congressional intelligence committees investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election as well as any connection those activities may have had with the Trump campaign.
The announcement came during a statement in which Zuckerberg said his company had a “nine-point plan” for dealing with suspected “election interference.”
At this point, there’s no hard evidence — at least publicly released — proving anyone in Russia had anything to do with the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. The Russian government has denied any involvement, and even some of the usual suspects among the international hacking community have stayed mum on the topic. Regardless, this is a story that simply will not go away.
Along the way, many different brands and public figures have been pulled into the debate. Most prominently, of course, are President Trump and members of both his family and his campaign team.
But several American-based brands have been forced to answer questions about their “involvement” or “activities” as well. Facebook is one of the most prominent brands in this category. The social media giant has been accused of administering advertising controls that are too lax, putting profits above national security.
This is an allegation Zuckerberg and his team have vehemently denied. During a recent Facebook Live event, Zuckerberg said: “We are in a new world. It is a new challenge for internet communities to have to deal with nation-states attempting to subvert elections, but if that’s what we must do, then we are committed to rising to the occasion …”
Putting his money where his mouth is, Zuckerberg said Facebook already turned over copies of the ads in question, as well as any relevant information to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s leading the investigation into whether any collusion occurred during the 2016 election. Facebook admitted the company has yet to turn over any ads to Congress but said it would soon.
Consumers on both sides of the political spectrum, meanwhile, have weighed in on the issue. Some say Facebook is just playing a political game to promote a story that supports the company’s political leanings. Others say the social media giant should be more forthcoming still and do a better job policing its advertising accounts.
Based on these reactions, it’s clear that no matter what he does, Zuckerberg isn’t going to make everyone happy. But that’s no reason to dismiss tact and very careful public relations planning. When you go in knowing there will be some who are upset by your message, clarity and careful communication is vital to achieving the best response.