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Senate panel invites Facebook, Google to testify in Russia probe

Senate panel invites Facebook, Google to testify in Russia probe
© Greg Nash

The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued a request for Facebook to testify in an open hearing to examine how foreign actors may have used social media companies to influence the 2016 election, The Hill has learned.

Committee leaders have also invited Twitter and Google to testify at the hearing set for Nov. 1, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Facebook confirmed Wednesday that it has received the invitation to appear at the hearing, but it is not clear yet whether the company will accept.

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Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel The National Trails System is celebrating 50 years today — but what about the next 50 years? Key conservation fund for parks set to expire MORE (R-N.C.) declined to comment on plans for the hearing when asked by reporters, saying only the committee planned to hold a news conference next week to “bring everybody up to date on the investigation.”

Burr said earlier Wednesday that it’s not important to him that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg or other top executives necessarily show up for a hearing.

“I think it’s more important that we get the person who’s most capable of talking about the technical aspects of what they need to do to identify foreign money that may come in and what procedures, if any, need to be put in law that make sure elections are not intruded by foreign entities,” Burr said.

The Senate panel has been probing Russia's efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential campaign, including alleged attempts at mounting an influence campaign using social media.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel Hillicon Valley: Facebook reveals 30 million users affected by hack | Grassley presses Google to explain data practices | Senators warn Canada against using Chinese telecom firm | FCC responds to net neutrality lawsuits Senators urge Canada against using Huawei in 5G development due to national security concerns MORE (Va.), the panel's top Democrat, has pushed for such a hearing since August, after Facebook revealed that the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm with links to Kremlin allies, had purchased $100,000 in political ads during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” Warner said after the revelation. “There’s going to be, I think, much more.”

Facebook said last week that it will hand over all 3,000 of the purchased ads to congressional investigators. Warner has said that he’s interested in understanding the extent of Russian actors using Facebook to potentially interfere with the election beyond just the ads — info that the hearing could yield.

Updated: 5:12 p.m.