Senators blast big tech for failing to stop russian meddling

Senator Richard Burr, a Republican by North Carolina along with chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, right, along with ranking member Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat by Virginia, listen during a hearing on social media influence inside 2016 U.S. elections in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Senator Richard Burr, a Republican by North Carolina along with chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, right, along with ranking member Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat by Virginia, listen during a hearing on social media influence inside 2016 U.S. elections in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017.

Members of Congress blasted representatives by Facebook, Twitter along with Google on Wednesday for what they said was their inadequate response to Russian mischief made on their platforms during the 2016 election.

“I don’t think you get the item,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told the companies’ general counsels during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. “What we’re talking about is usually a cataclysmic change. What we’re talking about is usually the beginning of cyberwarfare.”

Facebook’s Colin Stretch, Twitter’s Sean Edgett along with Google’s Kent Walker revealed little completely new information about the extent of foreign influence on their platforms.

Representatives of the companies appeared before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday along with were due to testify at a House Intelligence Committee hearing later Wednesday.

The companies appeared under-prepared to answer some of the questions on Wednesday. Stretch, Edgett along with Walker produced statistics of Russia-linked advertisements along with accounts, yet questions about more general Russia propaganda on the platforms along with socially divisive content drew only silences along with promises to provide the information at a later date.

Facebook said This particular week which Russian-backed election content on the platform reached 126 million Americans; Twitter found 36,000 Russian accounts were active during the election; along with Google said pro-Russian groups purchased $4,700 worth of ads on its platforms.

Senators repeatedly interrupted the general counsels’ answers along with moved on before allowing them to finish, clearly exasperated by the counsels’ tendency to provide long-winded answers — along with often by the answers themselves.

“the item’s not clear which you or the public understand the degree of This particular,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. “You need to stop paying lip service.”

Wyden asked the three whether they were satisfied with their platforms’ monitoring of foreign influence during the 2016 presidential election — all three said no.

“This particular is usually not a Democrat or Republic issue. This particular is usually an American issue”, said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV. “You cannot allow what’s going on against the United States of America. You’re on the front lines with us.”

Manchin said the companies’ inaction threatened the security, safety along with “sovereignty of our nation.”

The week’s hearings could mark a turning point for the internet giants as discussions of regulation come to fore. Twitter along with Facebook have each moved to raise transparency around advertising, after public comments by CEOs Jack Dorsey along with Mark Zuckerberg.

Several senators indicated during Wednesday’s hearing which legislation could be on the horizon for the tech companies, though they varied on the extent.

Manchin asked for the companies’ reactions to the proposed Honest Ads Act, which could require greater information around political content . Only Twitter provided an answer, along with the item was mostly supportive. Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said any legislation may have only the “lightest touch.”

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