Senate panel mulling hearing over Russian election meddling on Facebook, Twitter

Senate panel mulling hearing over Russian election meddling on Facebook, Twitter
© Greg Nash

The top lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee have both signaled interest in having officials from Facebook and Twitter testify about Russian interference on their platforms during the 2016 presidential election.

The panel's top Democratic Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBipartisan group of lawmakers aim to reform US sugar program The Hill interview — DNC chief: I came here to win elections Virginia's governor race: What to watch for MORE (Va.) has repeatedly said he would like a hearing on the matter after Facebook revealed last week that a pro-Kremlin organization had bought $100,000 worth of political ads on its platform during the 2016 election cycle.

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Committee Chairman Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrJuan Williams: The shame of Trump's enablers Five takeaways from the social media hearings Overnight Tech: Senators demand tech firms do more on Russian meddling | House Intel releases Russian-promoted ads | Apple CEO says 'fake news' bigger threat than ads | Ex-Yahoo CEO, Equifax execs to testify on breaches MORE (R-N.C.), who has been comparatively mum on the subject, told reporters Tuesday that a hearing with Facebook and Twitter officials on Russian interference is “probably more when [than if]."

“We’re trying to work through the parameters and figure out where does the hearing take us,” Burr said. “What is it we’re looking for and importantly we know it has some value to our investigation.”

Burr and Warner said they have been speaking with each other about a potential hearing.

Warner has been pushing for the companies' officials to testify before the Senate panel, and on Tuesday he weighed in on a report that Russian agents used Facebook to promote protests in the U.S., including an anti-immigrant protest in August 2016 during the campaign.

Facebook shared some details with Warner last week regarding Russia's election interference. Warner said the company did not reveal to him that Russian actors had created Facebook event pages for anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rallies, which the Daily Beast reported Tuesday.

“I’m disappointed that Facebook didn’t come forward with this information about the Russians pushing people to anti-immigration rallies,” Warner told reporters.

“That somehow that was something they didn’t think was relevant, which is again why I think this is the tip of the iceberg. There’s going to be, I think, much more," he said. “I question whether Facebook has put near the resources they need into getting us all the facts."

Warner said that he has been frustrated by Facebook’s limited disclosures on Kremlin-connected groups using the platform to influence U.S. politics, noting that the company has only revealed a single “troll farm” involved, the Internet Research Group.

The Virginia Democrat also noted that Twitter has not yet briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian efforts to interfere in the election using its platform.