Facebook will help investigators release Russia ads, Sandberg tells Axios

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said on Thursday the company was fully committed to helping U.S. congressional investigators publicly release Russia-backed political ads that ran during the 2016 U.S. election.

“Things happened on our platform in this election that should not have happened,” Sandberg said during a interview in Washington with the Axios news website. “We told Congress and the intelligence committees that when they are ready to release the ads, we are ready to help them.”

The live interview was the first by a senior Facebook executive since the company disclosed last month it had found some 3,000 politically divisive ads believed to have been bought by Russia in the months before and after the presidential campaign.

The interview with Sandberg came during a multi-day visit to Washington that included meetings with U.S. lawmakers. On Wednesday, she met privately with the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation.

Sandberg’s outreach comes as the social media giant and other major internet firms, including Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) and Twitter (TWTR.N), are on the defensive as they try to limit the fallout from a torrent of new revelations about how Moscow sought to use their platforms as vehicles to sow discord in the United States and to influence the election.

Sandberg told Axios the company began hearing rumors of Russian attempts to use the platform to spread propaganda around election day last November, but did not give a precise timeline about when the company began its review.

Sandberg said she supported the public release of those ads, and the pages they were connected to. Information about how the ads were targeted toward specific kinds of users would also be released, she said.

Asked if Facebook contributed to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s defeat last year, Sandberg, an open Clinton supporter during the campaign, did not answer directly, but said it was important the website was “free from abuse” during any election in any country.

But Sandberg acknowledged the company had erred in how it handled the issue of foreign interference last year.

”It’s not just that we apologize. We’re angry, we’re upset. But what we really owe the American people is determination“ to do a better job of preventing foreign meddling,” she said.

“We don’t want this kind of foreign interference” on Facebook, Sandberg added. “Any time there is abuse on our platform, it troubles us. It troubles us deeply.”

She said the company had been too permissive at times in terms of how advertisers are allowed to target users, and that Facebook did not want to allow ads that may be “discriminatory.”

Still, Sandberg said it was important to protect “free expression” on Facebook. Had the Russian ads been bought by legitimate accounts instead of fraudulent ones, many would have been allowed to run on the site, she said.

She also criticized Twitter’s decision this week to remove a campaign video from Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn, who is running for Senate in Tennessee. Twitter took down the video, saying a remark Blackburn made about opposing abortion was inflammatory, but later recanted.

“In that ad, there are a lot of things that people don’t like, that I don’t like … But the question is, ‘Should divisive political or issue ads run?’ Our answer is yes, because when you cut off speech for one person you cut off speech for all people,” she said.

Sandberg said the company wanted other internet firms to work to make ad purchases more transparent, but said Facebook was still talking about the issue with lawmakers who want to introduce legislation on the topic.

Representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter are expected to testify about Russian influence at hearings before the Senate and House intelligence committees on Nov. 1.

Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Bernadette Baum

Tech

Everything Oculus announced today: $99 Gear VR, Touch release date, Minecraft, and more

It's coming soon.

It’s Oculus Connect keynote day, and the company had a lot of stuff to announce despite a claim that consumers shouldn’t get too excited about the event in Los Angeles.

Here are all the big announcements:

Samsung’s $ 99 Gear VR

While Oculus is planning to release the amazing new Rift headset in Q1 2016, one of its biggest partners, Samsung, revealed it will release the consumer version of Gear VR in November for just $ 99. This will work with Samsung’s Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5.

From VentureBeat

Gaming is in its golden age, and big and small players alike are maneuvering like kings and queens in A Game of Thrones. Register now for our GamesBeat 2015 event, Oct. 12-Oct.13, where we’ll explore strategies in the new world of gaming.

Oculus SDK 1.0 is coming in November

Both Rift and Gear VR will need a lot of VR content, and Oculus is planning to update its software-development kit to help studios do exactly that. One of the big things this SDK will come with is direct drivers — this will enable the headset to work without having to fiddle with setting up the Rift as an external monitor.

Oculus Arcade

This is a 1980s-style arcade simulator that enables you to feel like you’re playing Pac-Man at a stand-up machine.

Trailer for Rift games

 

Twitch, Hulu, Netflix, and more to support Oculus Video

netflix-virtual-reality-app

Developers are working on plenty of games for virtual reality, but Oculus is expecting all kinds of content to make the leap to its Rift and Gear VR systems. That includes video services like Netflix and Hulu — the latter of which revealed it is planning to build VR-native videos.

“Oculus Ready” PCs

You’re gonna need a beefy PC to use an Oculus Rift, but you won’t need to guess if certain systems will work. Oculus announced it will work with hardware manufacturers like Dell, Alienware, and Asus on a line of “Oculus Ready” rigs that cost less than $ 1,000.

Minecraft comes to Rift

Microsoft is planning to make the Windows 10 Edition of its block-building game Minecraft compatible with Xbox One.

Oculus is working on its equivalent of Xbox Live and the App Store

Facebook, the owner of Oculus VR, has said that it won’t try to make a lot of money on the Rift hardware. That means it’s going to make the real cash on the app and software side. And we saw a little bit of that today when the company revealed how its platform will handle social features, analytics, and distribution.

Oculus Touch trailer and release date

The incredible Oculus Touch controllers, which brings your hands into VR, aren’t coming out until Q2 of 2016. But here’s a trailer to show what they can do.

Oculus Medium

Oculus chief executive officer Brendan Iribe said that every new platform needs a paint app, and Medium is what his company is calling its take on 3D drawing.

Epic reveals new Oculus Touch demo Bullet Train

More information:

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