Facebook, Twitter Executives Testify on Capitol Hill; Google Absent

Twitter isn't biased and Facebook's getting better at fighting trolls, tech execs to tell lawmakers today
Silicon Valley execs face Capitol Hill grilling

06 September, 2018

Facebook and Twitter executives pledged on Wednesday to better protect their social media platforms in the 2018 elections and beyond, and told Congress of aggressive efforts to root out foreign intrusions aimed at sowing divisions in American democracy.

Dorsey testified with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg about election meddling and abuse on their platforms.

The committee also asked Google to testify, but declined an offer to hear from Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker rather than Alphabet Chief Executive Larry Page.

Later in the day, Mr Dorsey faced a different hearing alone at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, focused on transparency and accountability, where he told lawmakers the company's number one priority was to ensure elections were not interfered with by foreign entities.

During that hearing, it's likely Dorsey will face questions about - and push back against - accusations of political bias against Republicans. "I'm not even sure it's trending in the right direction".

Sandberg repeated Facebook's acknowledgements about failing to crack down on influence campaigns stemming from Russian Federation that interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The companies have been criticized for what others see as an effort to exclude conservative voices.

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In prepared testimony released Tuesday before a Senate hearing Wednesday, Twitter chief executive officer Jack Dorsey says, "Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules".

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.

However, like Walden, Pallone acknowledged that Twitters ability to spread information quickly has a dark side, and said it and other social media companies must do more to regain and maintain public trust. Late last month, Trump railed against the internet giant, claiming its liberal bias was evident in the results of a "Trump News" search.

Republicans control majorities in both the Senate and House, but the House's approach to the election issue has been far more partisan than the Senate's.

Meanwhile, senators are debating new laws to regulate social-media companies. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., suggested the company might have bailed because it was "arrogant" while Sen. Dorsey replied, "Not today, but that is an area we are looking at and we'd love to be more open as a company, including our algorithms and how they work".

In a written statement, Google chief legal officer Kent Walker promised to maintain efforts to thwart foreign interference in U.S. elections.

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