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Facebook, Google and Twitter Offering Testimony On Russian Election Interference

by Countable | 10.31.17

What’s the story?

Three tech giants testifying at three congressional hearings will dominate the news cycle Tuesday and Wednesday. Top lawyers from Facebook, Google and Twitter are expected to field questions on how their platforms were used to allow Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and how they are planning to prevent such interference in the future.

NBC News describes the proceedings as likely to be a push-pull between the companies’ desire to provide crucial information for the congressional Russia probes and their desire to head off at the pass any attempts at significant changes to regulations:

"The hearings are part public investigation and part political performance art. On the one hand, they're a chance to get deeper answers on the record from the social media giants about the depth and scope of Russian meddling.

But they're also an opportunity for Silicon Valley to appear contrite and say they're "taking it seriously" by implementing proactive measures — thereby tempering any aggressive outside regulatory push."

Tuesday at 2:30 PM EDT company lawyers will testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Wednesday will bring two more hearings — the Senate Intelligence Committee at 9:30 AM EDT and the House Intelligence Committee at 2 PM EDT.

All three companies are expected to answer questions each hearing on how exactly their platforms were used to spread disinformation to the public, when they knew what was occurring, what they did about it, and what they plan to do to prevent such interference happening again.

A Washington Post report on Monday, based on draft testimonies obtained in advance of the hearings, revealed that the reach of Russian election interference was much more extensive than previously reported. According to the documents, as many as 126 million users may have encountered free content posted to Facebook by a Russian troll farm. Google also found 43 hours of content from Russian operatives distributed for free through YouTube.

Twitter has already disclosed the extensive use of their platform to disseminate ads and bots and other messaging methods. They have rolled out an new ad policy that they will likely testify about in addition to reflecting on the election interference.

What do you think?

Are you going to be watching the testimony? Is there a particular committee hearing your keeping an eye on? Why? What questions do you want the company lawyers to answer? Do you think tighter regulation of the platforms is warranted, given what we know already about Russian election interference, or not?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Pixabay / Creative Commons)

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