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Justice Department looks into social media firms over free speech

Justice Department looks into social media firms over free speech

Top executives from social media behemoths Facebook and Twitter are set to testify Wednesday before lawmakers about the ongoing threat of foreign influence operations on their platforms, as the shadow of possible Russian interference looms over the 2018 midterm elections.

In prepared testimony released Tuesday before a Senate hearing Wednesday, Twitter chief executive officer Jack Dorsey says, "Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules".

Dorsey was responding to a question from California Representative Doris Matsui during a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing that focused on user privacy protections, misinformation, content moderation and alleged bias against political conservatives on Twitter.

Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat, blasted the hearing and Republicans, saying there is no evidence that the algorithms of social networks or search results are biased against conservatives.

"This is an arms race, and that means we need to be ever more vigilant", she said.

Political pressure on Facebook, Twitter and Google escalated on Wednesday as the U.S. government warned that Silicon Valley's increasingly powerful companies may be hurting competition.

Over the a year ago, Facebook and Twitter have each launched public campaigns (and some not so public) to fight back against "inauthentic" accounts believed to be linked not only to Russian Federation, but to other malicious actors like Iran.




"That's on us", she wrote. USA intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 campaign with the aim of tilting the election in Trump's favor, a finding that Moscow has denied. Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg will also face questions, mainly surrounding what her company has done to crack down on abuse and other forms of content created to mislead.

"I'm deeply disappointed that Google - one of the most influential digital platforms in the world - chose not to send its own top corporate leadership to engage this committee", said Sen.

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones held a press conference outside the Senate hearing room as the testimony began to criticize the social media companies for banning him and his website Infowars from their platforms.

"My view is personal data is now the weapon of choice for political influence campaigns and we must not make it easier for our adversaries to seize these weapons and use them against us", Wyden said while discussing ways Congress can assist in this issue.

Lawmakers also criticized Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google for refusing to send top executives to testify in the Senate on foreign efforts to influence USA politics, with just weeks before the November 6 congressional elections.

The other executive is chief legal officer and senior vice president of global affairs Kent Walker.

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