The congressional inquiry into how Russian propaganda influenced the outcome of the 2016 continues today, and representatives from tech powerhouses Facebook, Google and Twitter are all in Washington, D.C., to be questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.
Google, Twitter and Facebook, all publicly traded companies, have been criticized in the past for being unclear about their practices, particularly Facebook and Twitter about how they handle content moderation. But being put under federal scrutiny will require them to lay out as clearly as possible what they know, and what they are going to do to fix the issue.
PBS NewsHour is streaming the hearings live on YouTube, which can be seen below:
Earlier this week, Facebook shared that between June 2015 and July 2017, about 126 million Americans may have been exposed to content made by an organization with ties to the Russian government called the Internet Research Agency. Twitter shared that it found 2,752 accounts that were linked to that same organization, and a total of 36,746 accounts linked to Russia that generated content about the election.
One measure that is in contention is a piece of legislation called the Honest Ads Act, a bipartisan effort from three senators: Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.). The bill aims to apply similar standards of transparency to social media ads as those applied to radio and television.
But even then, it can still be unclear who is controlling the purse strings of, for example, a super PAC, which is an organization that can raise an unlimited amount of money for a candidate, but can’t give those funds to that candidate.
Ultimately, the questions of what kind of information these companies will have to publicly disclose about the provenance of the political campaign ads that live on their platforms — and what will have to change in how they allocate their resources to combat the problem — aren’t going away anytime soon.