Dems hammer Twitter, Facebook for responses on alleged memo bot campaign

Dems hammer Twitter, Facebook for responses on alleged memo bot campaign
© Greg Nash

Two Democratic lawmakers slammed Twitter and Facebook on Wednesday, saying the social media giants' response to questions about recent alleged Russian manipulation of their platform were “incomplete.”

Top House Intelligence Committee Democrat Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHeads up, GOP: Elections have consequences Top Dems: DOJ position on Whitaker appointment 'fatally flawed' House Dems launching probe into Whitaker's role in company government deemed a 'scam' MORE (Calif.) and top Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers say California will eventually get emergency funding for fire relief Top Dems: DOJ position on Whitaker appointment 'fatally flawed' Congress needs to wake up to nuclear security threat MORE (Calif.) had previously sent the companies a letter requesting that they conduct a detailed investigation into social media promotion of the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo, a campaign that pushed lawmakers to release a controversial House Intelligence memo on FBI surveillance. The hashtag was allegedly boosted by a Russian bot campaign.

The companies gave their responses to Feinstein's and Schiff’s offices on Friday, but the two lawmakers said Wednesday that the answers provided by Facebook and Twitter “have raised more questions than they have answered.”

In its response, Facebook deflected questions saying that it consistently monitors its platform for “bad actors trying to undermine our democracy,” but that it welcomed information from other companies like Twitter on the matter.

Twitter said that it has “not identified any significant activity connected to Russia with respect to Tweets posting original content to this hashtag.”

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The California Democrats pressed the companies for more answers in a follow-up letter that they sent Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Facebook reeling after NYT report | Dems want DOJ probe | HQ2 brings new scrutiny on Amazon | Judge upholds Russian troll farm indictments | Cyber moonshot panel unveils recommendations Facebook reeling after damning NYT report Zuckerberg says he learned of Definers through NYT story MORE on Wednesday.

Schiff and Feinstein said that they were “no closer to understanding Russia’s continuing interference in our democratic affairs” following Twitter and Facebook’s responses, noting that the companies did not answer their questions about the volume of bot accounts that were involved in pushing #ReleaseTheMemo, how much these accounts posted and how many legitimate — rather than automated — accounts were tied to the campaign.

The Democrats asked another series of questions in their new letter seeking detailed answers about how #ReleaseTheMemo posts regarding things like the geographic data Twitter and Facebook used to probe Russian influence or if the companies looked into accounts beyond those affiliated with the prominent Kremlin troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency.

The hashtag appeared earlier in January on social media after some Republican lawmakers began pushing for the House Intelligence Committee to declassify a memo created by Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesHeads up, GOP: Elections have consequences Overnight Energy: Trump, California leaders clash over fires | Trump says oil prices should be 'much lower' | Zinke criticizes media coverage | Officials consider new truck pollution rule Trump, California battle over climate and cause of fires MORE (R-Calif.) allegedly demonstrating that the FBI improperly surveilled Trump campaign communications. The memo has been criticized by both the FBI and House Democrats who have seen it. 

Hamilton 68, a project within the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, found that around this time accounts it believed were associated with Russia began prolifically tweeting calls to #ReleaseTheMemo.

Schiff and other lawmakers like top Senate Intelligence Democrat Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFacebook reeling after damning NYT report On The Money: Trump, Senate leaders to huddle on border wall funding | Fed bank regulator walks tightrope on Dodd-Frank | Koch-backed groups blast incentives for corporations after Amazon deal Schumer told Warner to back off of Facebook: report MORE (Va.) criticized Twitter for allowing what they believed to be a Russian information campaign to be carried out on its platform.