Sunday, 19 November, 2017

Facebook, Twitter, Google face aggressive questioning at Senate hearing

Facebook vows to double its cyber safety and security staff Congress looks into Russian social media meddling
Garry Little | 02 November, 2017, 00:27

Focused on Russia's alleged use of Facebook, Google, and Twitter to meddle with U.S. politics, the hearing was a forum for senators to ask executives at those companies questions about the propaganda operation and voice their concerns. "[They said] 'there's nothing to see here.' It bothers me, if you're committed to working with us on this", Warner said, basing his impressions on initial briefings the firms gave Senate Intelligence at the beginning of the summer. James Risch (R-Idaho) said.

"Russia's actions are further exposing the dark underbelly of the ecosystem you have created", said Virginia Sen. The sampling published by Politico seems inconsistent with the way politicians and journalists generally portray "Russian disinformation", which they describe as a plot to "reshape US politics" and undermine our electoral process by sophisticated operatives who know how to manipulate American voters.

Sen. Mark Warner, the committee's vice chairman, showed the illustration, shared by the Russia-affiliated "Army of Jesus", as evidence of how Russian actors used social networking posts and online ads to sow divisiveness and spread propaganda.

Facebook, in a series of disclosures over two months, has said that people in Russian Federation bought at least 3,000 USA political ads and published another 80,000 Facebook posts that were seen by as many as 126 million Americans over two years.

According to data released by the House Intelligence Committee, the troll group spent more than $2,500 in 2015 and 2016, paid in rubles, promoting this ad. But when asked if that meant he would join his colleagues in making a push for them to testify, Warner added: "I want to actually reflect on that a little bit before I give you a straight answer". The company also found nine Russian accounts that bought ads, most of which came from the state-backed news service RT, previously known as Russia Today.

There is also proposed USA legislation that would extend rules governing political ads on television, radio and satellite to also cover digital advertising. "Oh listen, we just finished [the hearing] three minutes ago, so give us time to sort of think through it", Burr said.

The Senate Intelligence Committee hearing proved far more explosive than a similar hearing Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, with senators accusing the social media companies of permitting a flood of Russian-sponsored disinformation aimed at US voters.

Overall, given Zuckerberg's comments and its expense estimate increase, Facebook seems to be taking the Russian security and ad transparency issues extremely seriously.

Facebook's General Counsel Colin Stretch, left, and Twitter's Acting General Counsel Sean Edgett, enter a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian election activity and technology, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington.


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