Google, Facebook, Twitter invited to testify in Russia investigation

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Published 28.09.2017 02:03
Google, Facebook, Twitter invited to testify in Russia investigation

One of the congressional committees investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election has invited the tech giants Facebook, Twitter and the parent company of Google to appear for a public hearing on Nov. 1, a Senate aide confirmed Wednesday.

The three internet and online social media giants will testify in an open hearing on the rising evidence that they were covertly manipulated in a campaign to help Donald Trump win the presidency.

Before that they could also testify in the House Intelligence Committee: Representatives Mike Conaway and Adam Schiff, who lead the committee's Russia probe, announced late Wednesday they too had invited representatives of technology firms to testify on Russian manipulation.

"Congress and the American people need to hear this important information directly from these companies," they said.

Facebook recently revealed that for just $100,000, apparent Russia-linked buyers placed some 3,000 advertisements on its pages last year that appeared aimed at influencing the election.

Facebook has turned the details of those ads over to investigators. According to reports, the ads sought to boost the Democratic and Republican rivals of then-election frontrunner Hillary Clinton, as well as to sow discord among Americans in ways that would damage Clinton's voter base.

"The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn't specifically reference the U.S. presidential election, voting or a particular candidate," Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said early this month.

"Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights."

Google, a unit of Alphabet, has said it was not used in the alleged Russian campaign to steer the U.S. election.

But according to Buzzfeed, its automated ad-targeting system lets advertisers direct ads to people using racist and anti-Semitic search terms.

Twitter meanwhile has been shown to be a dense thicket of easily faked accounts and news items that allowed alleged Russian operatives to pump out politically divisive and anti-Clinton tweets.

Top members of the Senate panel have been scrutinizing the ways that the social media platforms and online ads were used by Russians to influence the election. Committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, had called for a public hearing with the tech companies earlier this month. Twitter is scheduled to meet behind closed doors with the committee's staff Thursday.

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