Google submits written testimony ahead of Senate Intel hearing

Google submits written testimony ahead of Senate Intel hearing
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Google executive Kent Walker has submitted testimony on the company’s ongoing efforts to combat foreign influence operations ahead of a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the subject. 

In a written statement, Walker emphasized that the company has taken action to reduce the threat of foreign influence operations beyond the Russian campaign that sought to meddle in the 2016 election and is committed to working with members of Congress and others in the private sector “to address abuses that undercut the integrity of elections.” 

The Senate committee will publicly grill executives from Twitter and Facebook on Wednesday as part of its broader inquiry into Russian election interference.

The hearing is the committee’s second to feature social media executives. While Walker, senior vice president and chief legal officer at Google, was among those who testified last year, the committee rejected Google’s offer to again send him to testify, choosing to instead invite Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Page is not expected to be present alongside Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg on Wednesday.

Walker released his written testimony Tuesday, writing in a blog post that Google is “committed to working with Congress on these issues.”

“In addition to providing private briefings, as our senior executive responsible for these issues, I will be in Washington briefing Members of Congress on our work on this and other issues and answering any questions they have,” Walker said. 

In his testimony, Walker highlighted steps Google has taken to reduce foreign influence efforts since the company uncovered advertisements linked to the so-called Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll farm indicted in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s Russia investigation, last October.

Wednesday’s hearing comes in the wake of signs of new foreign influence campaigns, after Facebook identified influence operations targeting users globally that originated in Russia and Iran. The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to release a report on its findings sometime this fall. 

“We’ve continued to investigate activity by the Internet Research Agency and other Russia-affiliated entities since we testified before the Committee last year,” Walker wrote. “When we have found activity, we’ve removed the relevant accounts. We’ve also investigated activity linked to Iranian influence efforts, similarly removing the accounts we have linked to that activity.”

Walker noted that Google has taken steps to boost transparency around political ads on its platforms, including developing a verification program for anyone who wants to purchase a federal election advertisement on Google in the U.S., as well as other efforts to combat hacking and boost user security.