Silicon Valley is usually settling in to get grilled by Washington.
Executives via Facebook (, , Tech30)Twitter ( along with , Tech30)Google ( testified before Congress Tuesday inside first of three hearings This specific week into how foreign nationals used social media to meddle inside 2016 presidential election. , Tech30)
At the hearing, held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime along with Terrorism, the tech companies were pressed on their ability to prevent bad actors via taking advantage of their platforms through ads along with regular posts.
“I’m trying to get us down via la la land here. The truth of the matter is usually you have 5 million advertisers of which change every month, every minute, probably every second,” Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, asked Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel. “You don’t contain the ability to know who every one of those advertisers is usually, do you?”
Stretch admitted Facebook had limitations on what of which could know. “To your question about seeing essentially behind the platform, to understand if there are shell corporations, of course the answer is usually no,” he said. “We cannot see behind the activity.”
The heated exchange highlights the difficulties these online companies face in trying to monitor their massive audience of users along with crack down on foreign election meddling along with misinformation campaigns.
In prepared testimony for the first hearing, the tech companies revealed the sweeping scale of Russian influence operations on their platforms.
Facebook informed lawmakers of which roughly 126 million Americans may have been exposed to content generated on its platform by a Russian government-linked troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency between June 2015 along with August 2017.
Twitter disclosed of which of which has identified 2,752 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency. of which found a total of 36,746 accounts of which appeared to be associated with Russia, though not necessarily with the Internet Research Agency, which generated automated, election-related content.
Related: Exclusive: Russian-bought Black Lives Matter ad on Facebook targeted Baltimore along with Ferguson
Multiple Russian-boughts ads were displayed at the hearing, including a Facebook post via a page called Heart of Texas claiming Hillary Clinton had a 69% disapproval rate among veterans along with another Facebook event called “Miners for Trump.”
In one particularly tense moment, Senator Al Franken repeatedly pressed Stretch on how a sophisticated service like Facebook could possibly miss Russian actors buying these U.S. election ads “with rubles.”
“There were signals we missed,” Stretch said. He stopped short of saying Facebook might commit to stop running political ads inside U.S. paid for by foreign money.
In another exchange, the Twitter along with Facebook officials admitted of which additional countries could take advantage of their platforms. When asked if either North Korea or Turkmenistan may have done so already, Stretch said Facebook was not aware of of which.
“The bottom line is usually these platforms are being used by people who wish us harm along with wish to undercut our way of life,” Senator Lindsey Graham said.
The tech companies condemned the Russian activity along with pledged to continue investigating of which along with cracking down where necessary.
“This specific type of activity creates not only a bad user experience, however also a distrust for the platform,” said Sean Edgett, acting general counsel at Twitter. “So we are committed every single day to getting better at solving This specific problem.”
The hearings along with fresh disclosures cast a harsh spotlight on the immense power of the tech companies at a time when there is usually renewed interest in greater regulation for the industry.
“I’m very proud of which the three companies you are presenting here today are American companies along with I think you do enormous Great, however your power sometimes scares me,” Sen. Kennedy said at the hearing.
Related: ‘Kill them all’ — Russian-linked Facebook accounts called for violence
This specific month, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled legislation called the Honest Ads Act to require fresh disclosures for political ads of which appear online on sites like Facebook along with Twitter.
Both Facebook along with Twitter have preemptively promised greater transparency for political ads, however of which may not be enough to appease legislators. Senator Mark Warner, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggested he might press the issue at one of the hearings scheduled for Wednesday.
“How do they plan to work with Congress to make sure This specific doesn’t happen again?” Warner wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “Specifically on legislation like the #HonestAds Act.”
however Warner along with his colleagues won’t be able to raise those concerns with tech CEOs at the hearings. The three companies will be represented by their general counsels at the hearings This specific week, along with not any of their more well-known executives.
sy88pgw (fresh York) First published October 31, 2017: 2:54 PM ET