Wednesday, 22 November, 2017

Lawmakers slam social media giants for fake news and Russian ads

Mark Zuckerberg Pledges to Invest in Preventing Abuse on Facebook Facebook crushes Wall Street expectations, but warns crackdown on abuse will impact profitability
Lillian Steele | 02 November, 2017, 00:51

Focused on Russia's alleged use of Facebook, Google, and Twitter to meddle with U.S. politics, the hearing was a forum for senators to ask executives at those companies questions about the propaganda operation and voice their concerns.

The illustration was just one of several examples of Russian propaganda on Facebook that was shared during multiple congressional hearings with tech executives this week.

Colin Stretch, Facebook's general counsel, also revealed at the Senate Intelligence Committee that the 126 million of its US users exposed to content from Russian accounts did not include Instagram - where an "additional 16 million people" viewed such content since October 2016. The election was on November 8.

"We've raised these claims since the beginning of the year, and the leaders of your companies blew us off", Warner said.

"We expect more scrutiny about Facebook's ad system ahead", analyst Debra Aho Williamson of research firm eMarketer said in a note.

USA intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian Federation interfered in the campaign, including through use of social media, to try to influence the vote in favor of Republican candidate Donald Trump. Moscow has denied any interference and Trump has said there was no collusion. "The first part of this year, we pointed out entire engineering, product and design team on tackling the issues of information quality, abuse of our systems and protecting our users".

Some Republicans, however, sought to distance the scrutiny of the companies from questions about the legitimacy of Trump's election victory. Mark Warner, D-Va., during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian election activity and technology, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Any conclusions that Trump benefited from Russian Federation, perhaps in a decisive way, to win the White House ignored the complexity of the issue, Burr said.

Of the Russian Federation scandal enveloping Facebook publicly, Feinseth said: "In the bigger picture, I don't think it's a really big factor".

Stretch also disclosed that reach of Russian-backed political content on its platforms was greater than previously stated.

The campaigns of Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton spent a combined $81 million on Facebook ads, Stretch said, compared to about $46,000 in ad buys from the Internet Research Agency, a suspected Russian troll farm.

Facebook has been warning for more than a year about reaching a limit in "ad load", or the number of ads the company can feature in users' pages before crowding their News Feed. Twitter said it uncovered and shut down 2,752 accounts linked to a Russian agency, almost 14 times as many as it handed over to congressional committees three weeks ago.

Some senators criticized the companies for sending lawyers, not chief executives, to testify.

"Today, across our safety, security, and product and community operation teams, we have about 10,000 people who are working on safety and security generally", Stretch said during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, according to CNBC.

Silicon Valley giants faced aggressive grillings by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees Wednesday over the role their platforms have inadvertently played in Russia's meddling in US politics.

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