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Executives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter will appear before the US Congress in the coming weeks as lawmakers probe Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US election, committee sources said on Wednesday.
A Senate aide said executives from the three firms had been asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify at a public hearing on Nov. 1.
News of the hearings comes among growing concern over the influence of Russian-operated fake accounts on social networks. The New York Times reported Wednesday that Twitter bots linked to Russia have been spreading politically charged messages as recently as last weekend, promoting hashtags and trending topics like #standforouranthem and #takeaknee, following President Donald Trump’s controversial NFL comments last Friday. Russia-linked bots also spread similar polarizing topics during the 2016 election, the report says.
Twitter representatives will appear at a hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, a person familiar with the matter told Business Insider.
“Twitter engages with governments around the world on public policy issues of importance and of interest to policymakers,” a Twitter spokesperson told Business Insider. “We are cooperating with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in its inquiry into the 2016 election and will meet with committee staff next week. Twitter deeply respects the integrity of the election process, a cornerstone of all democracies, and will continue to strengthen our platform against bots and other forms of manipulation that violate our Terms of Service.”
The leaders of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee said the panel would hold an open hearing with technology companies as part of its investigation.
“In the coming month, we will hold an open hearing with representatives from tech companies in order to better understand how Russia used online tools and platforms to sow discord in and influence our election,” the committee’s top Democrat, Representative Adam Schiff, and Representative Mike Conaway, the Republican leading the investigation, said in a statement.
Facebook said last week that it was turning over ads from fake accounts linked to Russia to US investigators. Facebook said earlier this month it discovered about $100,000 worth of ads from fake accounts linked to Russia that ran during the 2016 US presidential election.
Some US lawmakers, increasingly alarmed about evidence that hackers used the internet to spread fake news and otherwise influence the 2016 election, have been pushing for more information about the influence of social networks in particular.
The Senate and House intelligence committees are two of the main congressional panels probing allegations that Russia sought to interfere in the U.S. election to boost Republican President Donald Trump’s chances at winning the White House, and possible collusion between Trump associates and Russia.
Moscow denies any such activity, and Trump dismissed any talk of such collusion.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Dustin Volz at Reuters; Editing by Peter Cooney)