Twitter, Facebook Lawyers to Testify Before Congress on Russia Election Meddling

Oct 20, 2017, 00:46
Twitter, Facebook Lawyers to Testify Before Congress on Russia Election Meddling

The first major legislative effort to rein in foreign interference in U.S. elections will kick off Thursday afternoon on Capitol Hill, where Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar will field questions from reporters over a new bill crafted, they said, to "improve transparency of online political ads".

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, has joined their effort and is co-sponsoring the bill, giving it a bipartisan boost in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Penalties for noncompliance would be similar to those in the Federal Election Campaign Act, which regulates the financing of political campaigns in the USA, and would include fines and other liability for the individuals and online platforms involved. John Cornyn, the number-two Republican in the Senate and a member of the Intelligence Committee.

And within Congress, the bill might struggle to advance.

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"In 2016 Russians bought online political ads created to influence our election and divide Americans", the lawmakers wrote in a Wednesday press release.

The House committee is working to release the Facebook ads publicly after the hearing.

This report comes after it was discovered that Russian Federation bought some 3,000 ads and cut Facebook a cheque for over $100,000 during the 2016 election. Representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google are scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on November 1 in an open hearing.

Radio, TV, and newspaper ads carry rigorous restrictions around political ad disclosures. "Our laws should be as sophisticated as those who are trying to manipulate us or to break the law".

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Meredith McGehee, chief of policy at Issue One, a non-profit trying to reduce the influence of money in United States elections, said introduction of the bill could be a first effort to greater regulate the big tech platforms that now dominate digital media and advertising.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said he is considering a push for even broader disclosure requirements by the social media companies. "The social media companies were frankly late to the game in acknowledging this problem, but I think they're moving in the right direction". "I operate on what I believe in, and if people agree, then they agree".

His knowledge of the Washington landscape helped him negotiate a 2011 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, which had charged Facebook with deceiving consumers about whether it would keep their data private.

The bill would "prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio and satellite", according to a statement from Warner and Klobuchar. "They need to disclose and publicly register and notice who's buying ads for political purposes", said Klobuchar, of Minnesota.

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In addition, Twitter has taken action against suspected Russian troll accounts, suspending 22 accounts that corresponded with fake accounts used on Facebook. They could have been seen by as many as 25 million Facebook users, CNBC estimates.

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