Openly recognising their companies' past failures in rare displays of modesty, Facebook and Twitter executives touted new efforts to combat state-sponsored propaganda across their platforms before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, acknowledging that the task is often "overwhelming" and a massive drain on their resources.
Sessions will huddle with state attorneys general later this month "to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms", Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley said.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg acknowledged to the Senate Intelligence Committee that the company was too slow to respond to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 US election and general American political discourse, but insisted it is doing better. Most of those accounts were created after the presidential election and claimed USA affiliation or sought to reach American audiences, according to Dorsey's testimony.
Many senators expressed anger at Google for declining the committee's request to send a senior executive to testify - the company was represented in the hearing room by an empty chair.
"Unfortunately, what I described as a 'national security vulnerability, ' and 'unacceptable risk, ' back in November remains unaddressed", Senator Richard Burr, the committee's Republican chairman, said.
Two of Silicon Valley's most respected execs sitting side-by-side on Capitol Hill was a potent visual ー even more so because of who was absent.
"Google remains deeply concerned about attempts to undermine democratic elections", Walker said.
She is planning to tell the Senate committee that Facebook is removing fake accounts and pages, employing fact-checkers to stop the spread of inaccurate information, and more prominently disclosing which organization has paid for an advertisement that a Facebook user sees. The issue resurfaced anew, as Apple, Google's YouTube, Facebook, Spotify and other platforms banned the right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. These views are more strongly held by Republicans, with 64% saying tech companies favour liberal views and 85% saying social media sites censor political viewpoints. "In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that nearly all stories & news is BAD".
Dorsey agreed and admitted that Twitter needs to improve its artificial intelligence to detect this sort of abuse.
Sandberg helped grow Facebook into a global advertising juggernaut with a market value of more than half a trillion dollars. And Project Veritas recently featured video of a Twitter engineer admitting the majority of algorithms that filter out tweets are aimed at Republicans.
"We didn't fully predict or understand the real-world negative consequences", he said.
In prepared remarks, Dorsey rejected claims that Twitter operates on the basis of political bias. "If we determine that people were subject to any falsehoods or manipulation of any sort, we do need to provide them the full context of that and this is an area of improvement for us and something we're going to be diligent to fix".
"In the absence of substantive explanations, users have been left to wonder why search results look the way they do, or why some posts get removed and others don't", wrote Tarleton Gillespie in Techdirt.