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Week ahead in tech: Social media giants under scrutiny over Russian interference

Week ahead in tech: Social media giants under scrutiny over Russian interference
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Social media companies, including giants Facebook and Twitter, are in the spotlight over Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 campaign.

Twitter will brief the Senate Intelligence Committee next week over Russian influence on its platform. So far the company has been publicly tight-lipped about whether it even found any evidence of Russian activity.

"Twitter engages with governments around the world on public policy issues of importance and of interest to policymakers," a company spokesperson said in a statement emailed to The Hill.  

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"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."

Details in a Daily Beast report suggested Russian groups did use Twitter. The Internet Research Agency, a Russian "troll farm," with links Putin allies and the Kremlin, created a now suspended account called @March_For_Trump.

Twitter declined to comment on the account or why it was removed, saying that it doesn't "comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons."

The Internet Research Agency is the same group identified by Facebook for purchasing $100,000 in political ads during the 2016 election.

Facebook revealed the ad buy by Russian groups trying to influence the election earlier this month, sparking questions from lawmakers. The company has been under pressure to disclose more about the matter.

Facebook announced on Thursday that it was turning over the 3,000 Facebook ads that were purchased by the Russian group to congressional investigators.

"We believe it is vitally important that government authorities have the information they need to deliver to the public a full assessment of what happened in the 2016 election," Facebook's general counsel Colin Stretch said in a post.

"That is an assessment that can be made only by investigators with access to classified intelligence and information from all relevant companies and industries -- and we want to do our part."

And Mark Zuckerberg in a video announcement promised more transparency over political ad buys on Facebook.

Also on the tech docket in the coming week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will hold its monthly open meeting on Thursday.

Chairman Ajit Pai's agenda for the meeting is focused on agency reforms. The commissioners will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on eliminating rules which require some broadcasters and cable companies to keep paper copies of FCC rules.

The agency will also consider launching an inquiry into 911 access.

The FCC has been examining 911 access and technology since a massive AT&T outage left 12,000 callers without access to emergency services earlier this year.

Lawmakers also have a busy week ahead, with a number of tech hearings on tap.

All eyes will be on the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday when it holds an oversight hearing of the Securities and Exchange Commission at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday.

Expect SEC Chairman Jay Clayton to get questions on the hack of the agency's EDGAR financial disclosure system.

The agency disclosed on Wednesday that the database had been hacked and that the hackers may profited from using the information for insider trading. The hack comes on the heels of the massive breach at credit reporting agency Equifax, which may have exposed data on as many as 143 million Americans.

Already lawmakers, including Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerOutrage grows as Justice seeks to contain subpoena fallout The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week The tale of the last bipartisan unicorns MORE (D-Va.) are pressing the SEC to beef up requirements on when companies must disclose hacks.

The Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday afternoon will hold a hearing on the Federal Trade Commission to look at ways to improve the agency's handling consumer protection cases. The committee will hear from stakeholders during a hearing at 2:30 p.m.

 

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