Execs from Facebook, Google and Twitter told Congress Tuesday they aren’t assured they know the complete duration of Russia’s manipulation of social media in the US presidential election — and don’t have the technology to prohibit it from happening again.
“It surely is a global threat,” Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel, said at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing when asked if nations such as North Korea and Iran could also use deception to meddle in American politics.
The discussion was the first in two days of hearings before three congressional committees as the technology titans face wants for change — and the threat of new act to regulate political advertising — after they admitted Russia mounted a huge effort to sow discord among the electorate.
While Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the subcommittee’s chairman, said social-media platforms have declined to conflict disinformation spread by foreigners, he alert that imposing new regulations on the companies may raise constitutional problems.
“The manipulation of social-media sites by terrorist organizations and foreign governments is one of the strongest challenges to American democracy and an important threat to our national security in the 21st century,” Graham said.
He said the hearing would assist regulated whether “legislative solutions are basic and can be designed consistent with our Constitution and values.”
Democrats on the panel made it clear they will press harder for act action on the technology companies, which have become major activist and campaign contributors in DC.
Subcommittee member Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, told reporters act is needed because “I doubt they found all the ads and posts. The practice and potential offense are ongoing right now. Disinformation is going to become exponentially more rampant.”
Stretch said 29 million people were straight served content from accounts backed by the Internet Research Agency, a pro-Kremlin Russian group.
After those posts were liked, shared and commented on via Facebook’s social network, they settled in the news feeds of about 126 million people at some point over a two-year duration — a number equal to about 40 % of the US population.
Twitter found 2,752 accounts combined with the IRA, according to its acting general counsel, Sean Edgett — more than 10 times the number originally disclosed.
Edgett made clear Twitter nations to investigate.
Google said the impact on its websites was much smaller, with $4,700 worth of ads linked to the Russian group, compared with the $100,000 Facebook revealed.
None of the media titans said they will back act to need all social-media ads to include disclosures about the buyers.
But they said they’d be willing to work with bill author Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on discovering a solution that works for everybody.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said he’s proud these are American companies, “but your power sometimes scares me.”
Under tough questioning from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Facebook’s Stretch admitted it should have been hurried to shut down Russians buying Facebook ads with rubles.
“In hindsight, it’s one we misplaced,” Stretch said.