Congress grills Facebook, Twitter over foreign bids to tilt politics

Jack Dorsey 2015

Lawyers for Facebook, Google and Twitter were grilled by senators over the course of two days last October, after the extent of the Russian social media influence operation was revealed.

Facebook FB.O fell 1.6 percent and Twitter TWTR.N 5.2 percent.

Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey denied any deliberate attempt to target conservatives.

Sheryl Sandberg will tell the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday that Facebook was "too slow to spot" Russian interference in the 2016 USA presidential election and "too slow to act", according to an opening statement the Facebook chief operating officer released Tuesday.

President Donald Trump lashed out at social media companies again, accusing tech companies of interfering in the 2016 and 2018 elections without providing evidence for his allegations.

"We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act", Sandberg said during the Senate hearing, addressing Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 USA presidential election.

Trump told the conservative outlet in an interview conducted on Tuesday that "I think they already have" interfered in the November 6 election.

Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-V.A.) echoed that sentiment.

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing will focus only on bias by Twitter and the platform's algorithms.

The committee invited Larry Page, the CEO of Google's parent company Alphabet.

"I'm deeply disappointed that Google ― one of the most influential digital platforms in the world ― chose not to send its own top corporate leadership to engage this committee", he said.

Dorsey and other tech titans will be in the US capital on Wednesday to testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is still probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, along with the general growing influence of social media to disseminate information.

From his Twitter account, Dorsey tweeted out 16 separate threaded tweets with the text to his statement that was read aloud to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Jones railed on the government, media and social media companies for more than 40 minutes in the hallway as the hearing began, and later took a seat in the hearing room.

In the Senate, both Burr and Warner pressed the social media companies to do more. Instead, a spokesperson for the committee said they may just leave a chair empty next to Sandberg and Dorsey.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio said the company might have skipped the hearing because it was "arrogant".

Though no Google representative is expected to testify as of this report, in a blog post Tuesday Google Senior Vice President for Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker said he would still be in Washington to separately brief lawmakers on Google's efforts and will be submitting written testimony to the Senate committee. Walker said in his statement that the company was taking the issue of foreign interference in politics very seriously.

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