Facebook, Twitter execs to face lawmakers over foreign influence operations

Jack Dorsey 2015
Jack Dorsey 2015More

06 September, 2018

This morning, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg appeared before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss foreign interference, specifically from Russian Federation, in U.S. elections via social media.

Twitter's Dorsey also will testify at a House of Representatives hearing on Wednesday that the company "does not use political ideology to make any decisions", according to written testimony also made public on Tuesday.

In his opening remarks, Dorsey pushed back against the idea Twitter was biased by its creator's personal opinions.

Top Google officials, including Larry Page, CEO of parent company Alphabet, and Sundar Pichai, CEO of the Google brand, declined invitations from congressional leaders to testify at the hearings.

FILE PHOTO: Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer and Member of the Board, attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2017.

CEO Jack Dorsey about issues including Russian meddling, online privacy and political bias on tech platforms.

Many senators expressed anger at Google, which was represented in the hearing room by an empty chair next to Sandberg.

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Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg says the company is getting better at finding and combating adversaries who try to use the platform.

"This interference was completely unacceptable. It violated the values of our company and of the country we love". Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified to Congress about Facebook's role in the 2016 election in April.

"Over the last 18 months we've met with dozens of Committee Members and briefed major Congressional Committees numerous times on our work to prevent foreign interference in United States elections", a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Google offered to send its chief legal officer, Kent Walker, to Wednesday's hearing, but he was rejected by the committee, which said it wanted to hear from corporate decision-makers. Twitter denies that's happening. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonThe Hill's Morning Report - Senate battlefield grows with 70 days until midterms Grassley: Trump will tackle prison reform "soon after" the midterms Trump: No action on criminal justice reform before midterms MORE (R-Ark.), Sandberg and Dorsey said they would not do business with China in a way that could undermine USA national security, as Cotton accused Google of doing. "We believe strongly in being impartial, and we strive to enforce our rules impartially".

Laura Rosenberger, the Director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund, told ABC News that likely won't be a problem for the Senate Intelligence Committee, as that committee in particular has been "steeped in understanding the challenges posed by foreign interference". "That means it's going to take everyone including industry, governments, and experts from civil society working together to stay ahead", Sandberg will say, in part.

"What we're concerned about is how Twitter has in some ways it looks like selectively, adversely affected conservatives", Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said at the House hearing.

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