SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is kicking off an effort to get U.S. small businesses to spend more on advertising as the image of the social media network’s ads have taken a hit for their role in alleged Russian attempts to sway U.S. voters.
Zuckerberg is traveling on Thursday to St. Louis, Missouri, to launch the program, after which Facebook will dispatch teams to 30 U.S. cities next year to run free training classes about its advertising, the company said in a statement.
Facebook disclosed in September that Russians bought ads on its platform in an attempt to divide Americans in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Russian government has denied meddling in the election.
The company has responded by pledging to root out fake accounts and build a publicly searchable archive of ads related to elections, among other steps.
Facebook named five of the 30 cities it will target for its advertising push: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Des Moines, Iowa; Greenville, South Carolina; Houston, Texas; and St. Louis.
Politicians including Republican Governor Greg Abbott of Texas are backing the effort, Facebook said.
Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google have come to dominate digital advertising with self-serve platforms that allow people to buy highly targeted ads based on data Facebook and Google collect about users.
That has come at the expense of traditional players such as newspapers, and it has spooked consumer advocates who are concerned about the rise of a duopoly.
(Reporting by David Ingram in San Francisco; Editing by Colleen Jenkins)