Facebook, Twitter execs to face lawmakers over foreign influence operations

Helen Aguilar
September 5, 2018

"Clearly this problem is not going away; I'm not even sure it's trending in the right direction", Burr said of the threat to United States elections from foreign influence operations on social media platforms.

Google offered to send its chief legal officer, Kent Walker, to Wednesday's hearing, but he was rejected by the committee, which said it wanted to hear from corporate decision-makers.

Congress has sharply criticized the social media companies over the a year ago as it has become clear that they were at the forefront of Russia's interference in the 2016 elections and beyond.

Dorsey's testimony comes as some Republicans, including President Donald Trump, are increasingly claiming that social media and other mainstream online platforms are innately biased against conservative voices.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg acknowledged to the Senate Intelligence Committee that the company was too slow to respond to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 US election and general American political discourse, but insisted it is doing better. In testimony released before that hearing, Dorsey denied that Twitter uses political ideology to make decisions.

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This will be the first time Sandberg has publicly faced significant questioning about Facebook's role in the 2016 election.

Dorsey will then participate in a second hearing Wednesday afternoon before the House Energy & Commerce Committee, where he is set to discuss the algorithms Twitter uses to serve content on users' Twitter feeds and "content monitoring".

Trump faulted Twitter on July 26, without citing any evidence, for limiting the visibility of prominent Republicans through a practice known as shadow banning. "It violated the values of our company and of the country we love", Sandberg said in her written statement, which Facebook shared with Fortune.

Google declined to send a top executive, so the company's absence is marked by a glass of water and empty chair in the hearing room.

"I'm disappointed Google decided against sending the right senior level executive", committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in his opening remarks. While Burr said he believes Facebook and Twitter do understand the problem, it took both companies several months previous year to acknowledge they had been manipulated.

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