Facebook, Twitter execs to face lawmakers over foreign influence operations

Jack Dorsey 2015

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 USA election and general American political discourse, but insisted it is doing better.

Conservative Republicans in Congress have criticized social media companies for what they say are politically motivated practices in removing some content, a charge the companies have repeatedly rejected.

"As a bipartisan report from this committee said, Russian Federation used social media as part of, and I quote, a comprehensive and multi-faceted campaign to sow discord, undermine democratic institutions, and interfere in USA elections and those of our allies", she explained.

Senator Richard Burr, the committee's Republican chairman, said he expected the hearing would focus on solutions to the problem of foreign efforts to influence USA elections and sow political discord, with a jab at Google. "Maybe I did a better job because I'm good with the Twitter and I'm good at social media, but the truth is they were all on Hillary Clinton's side, and if you look at what was going on with Facebook and with Google and all of it, they were very much on her side".

"What happened in the 2016 election cycle was unacceptable", said Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, in prepared remarks.

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.




Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has at times favored allowing far-right personalities such as Infowars' Alex Jones and white nationalist leader Richard Spencer on his social media platform, despite objections from some of Dorsey's staff.

The later hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee was to focus on bias and Twitter's algorithms.

Many senators expressed anger at Google, which was represented in the hearing room by an empty chair next to Sandberg.

Google did publish "testimony" online, where Walker wrote that the company is "committed to working with Congress on these issues".

A committee spokesperson said Walker's "commentary" was not testimony, adding, "We wish his enthusiasm for participating in the company's public hearing extended to his company's senior leadership, and that they were willing to answer the committee's questions".

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