Facebook, Twitter, Google affirm before Congress

Express News

By Reuters News|Updated: October 31, 2017

© REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
(L-R) Colin Stretch, basic counsel for Facebook; Sean Edgett, acting basic counsel for Twitter; and Richard Salgado, director of police and info security at Google, are sworn in prior to testifying prior to Senate Judiciary Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee hearing on “ways to minimize the quantity and combat of Russian propaganda and extremist content online,” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 31, 2017.

Washington: Silicon Valley is settling into get grilled by Washington.

Executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google are testifying prior to Congress Tuesday afternoon in the first of three hearings today into how foreign nationals used social networks to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

” The bottom line is these platforms are being used by individuals who want us damage and want to undercut our lifestyle,” Senator Lindsey Graham stated in his opening remarks at the hearing Tuesday.

In ready testament for the very first hearing, which is being held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, the tech companies exposed the sweeping scale of Russian influence operations on their platforms.

Facebook notified legislators that roughly 126 million Americans may have been exposed to content created on its platform by a Russian government-linked troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency in between June 2015 and August 2017.

Twitter disclosed that it hasidentified 2,752 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency. It discovered a total of 36,746 accounts that appeared to be related to Russia, though not necessarily with the Internet Research Agency, which generated automated, election-related material.

Related: Exclusive: Russian-bought Black Lives Matter ad on Facebook targeted Baltimore and Ferguson

Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel, called the content of the Russian-bought ads “deeply disturbing” in his prepared remarks. He saidit was “apparently planned to amplify societal divisions and pit groups of people against each other.”

The hearings and brand-new disclosures cast a harsh spotlight on the tremendous power of the tech business at a time when there is renewed interest in higher regulation for the industry.

This month, a bipartisan group of senators revealed legislation called the Honest Ads Act to need new disclosures for political advertisements that appear online on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Both Facebook and Twitter have preemptively promised greater transparency for political ads, however that may not suffice to calm legislators. Senator Mark Warner, the top-level Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, recommended he would press the issue at one of the hearings arranged for Wednesday.

” How do they plan to deal with Congress to make sure this doesn’t occur again?” Warner wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “Specifically on legislation like the #HonestAds Act.”

Warner and his coworkers will not be able to raise those issues with tech CEOs at the hearings. The three companies will be represented by their general counsels at the hearings this week, and not any of their more well-known executives.