What to watch for when America’s tech giants testify on Russian hacking today

5 November 2017

Mark Zuckerberg

Sam Woolley and Doug Guilbeault wrote an article for Quartz which provides a breakdown of the recent testimony provided to congressional intelligence committees by Facebook, Twitter, and Google to the Senate.

This week Twitter, Facebook, and Google will testify publicly before the US Congress about how the Russian government manipulated public opinion during the 2016 US election. Today (Oct. 31) they will be grilled on terrorism and crime by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, and tomorrow (Nov. 1) they will testify in front of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.

Until now, the companies have been tight-lipped about political manipulation on their platforms—but it’s all about to come out. As an idea of what is to come, ahead of the hearings today it was revealed that over 126 million Facebook users in the US were exposed to Russian-created political content.

In the past, both companies have tried to focus on the ways Russia used particular mechanisms to manipulate public opinion, such as paid advertisements. But they haven’t clearly shown how these efforts are linked to other issues, such as automated political bots, government-built event pages on Facebook, or manufactured trends on Twitter. They also have not revealed whether Russia was the only government launching influence campaigns during the election.

Why should we care? People need to know the truth about political manipulation over social media so they can accurately evaluate whether these platforms warrant trust as news sources. Failing to provide transparent reports on these issues is almost tantamount to treating computational propaganda as a permissible mode of political communication. And that is something to be fearful of.

Read the full article here.

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