US Social Media Giants Pledge to Combat
November 1, 2017
Attorneys for Twitter, Facebook and Google on Tuesday told U.S.
lawmakers that Russian entities used their platforms to sow discord and
disinformation during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, but
downplayed the magnitude of those efforts.
"Foreign actors used fake accounts to place ads in Facebook and
Instagram that reached millions of Americans over a two-year period,"
Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said, testifying before a Senate
Judiciary subcommittee. "Many of these ads and posts are inflammatory.
Some are downright offensive."
Sean Edgett, Twitter's acting general counsel, said the company studied
all tweets posted from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15, 2016, and found that
election-related content posted by automated Russian troll accounts "was
comparatively small." He said the Russian troll accounts made up "around
1/100th of a percent of total Twitter accounts" during the time studied.
"Twitter believes that any activity of that kind — regardless of
magnitude — is unacceptable and we agree we must do better to prevent
it," he said.
Twitter has taken action against the suspected Russian trolls,
suspending 2,752 accounts and implementing new dedicated teams "to
enhance the quality of the information our users see," Edgett said.
Facebook, meanwhile, said it would hire more people to vet and, when
necessary, remove content, and verify and publish the identities of
Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the Senate requiring some
of the very steps technology giants say they are implementing on their
"These platforms are being used by people who wish us harm and wish to
undercut our way of life," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of
shouldn't be news to anyone that Russia interfered in the election,"
said California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. "What is really
staggering and hard to fully comprehend is how easily and successfully
they turned modern technologies to their advantage."
The social media attorneys said Russian trolling campaigns consistently
sought to rile up Americans, first in a way damaging to Democratic
presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. After the election, they said,
Russian efforts appeared aimed at sowing doubts about the legitimacy of
Republican Donald Trump's victory at the polls — a point seized upon by
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
"Russia does not have loyalty to a political party in the United States;
their goal is to divide us and discredit our democracy," Grassley said.
Representatives from the same social media companies testify Wednesday
before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.