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Melissa Ryan @MelissaRyan
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In just fifteen minutes a full day of #techhearings begins. This morning Jack Dorsey, Sheryl Sandberg, and an empty chair (representing Google) will testify before the Senate Intel Committee. Later today Jack Dorsey will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
I'll be live-tweeting both #techhearings today. If you'd like to follow along here are some handy resources to help you get the most out of them, starting with the post I wrote previewing today's hearings for @mmfa. mediamatters.org/blog/2018/09/0…
This morning's #techhearing is on social media companies' responses to foreign influence operations. Expect it to be a more subdued affair with less partisan theater and more on-topic questions. @MarkWarner & @SenatorBurr tend to keep things on track & nonpartisan.
You can read Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's opening statement here: businessinsider.com/facebook-coo-s…
You can watch this morning's #techhearing here:
And if you want to follow experts, journalists, and activists who will likely be live-tweeting today, @digitalsista has a super handy list that I love for these hearings. twitter.com/digitalsista/l…
Alex Jones is attending this morning's hearing. Which is a good reminder: the far right would very much like us not to focus on election security and instead let them turn today into a circus. How about we not let them do that? #techhearings
This status message on the Senate Intel Committee's YouTube is amusing. #techhearings
Speaking of the far right wanting this morning to be all about them and not about the topic at hand... #techhearings
And we're off. Burr's opening statement is subdued, trying to frame today as shared responsibility between tech and government and making clear that while tech companies have made some progress it hasn't been enough. #techhearings
"Business as usual isn't good enough." #techhearings
I get crap every time I praise Burr but I really do appreciate how he's managed to avoid the circus that is the rest of the GOP in these #techhearings.
Warner up now. Also calling out Google for not showing up and naming Google's many problems that the committee wants to address with them. #techhearings
Warner says Russian interference hasn't stopped. A reminder that this Congress hasn't passed any legislation to stop them either. #techhearings
Both Burr and Warner are emphasizing the effect of hostile actors gaming social media ecosystems to undermine democracy. #techhearings
"The era of the Wild West in social media is coming to an end. Where we go from here though, is an open question." @MarkWarner #techhearings
Warner touting just how much the committee has investigated foreign interference on social media, and how they've conducted the investigation in a bipartisan manner. #techhearings
Witnesses are being sworn in. Something that hasn't always happened at previous hearings. #techhearings
Sandberg up first. She's giving an abbreviated version of her submitted testimony. #techhearings businessinsider.com/facebook-coo-s…
Expect Sandberg to be super prepared. She'd also highly unlikely to get flustered or go off message, even when pressed aggressively by the committee. #techhearings
Sandberg says the first line of defense is finding and shutting down fake accounts. #techhearings
Sandberg also touting FAcebook's progress on curbing fake news and ad transparency. #techhearings
Nothing surprising in Sandberg's opening statement. #techhearings
. @Jack is giving his opening statement now. We don't have a preview of his opening statement. #techhearings
. @jack is reading and live-tweeting his prepared opening statement. #techhearings
. @jack copping up that Twitter was "unprepared and ill-equipped" to handle the myriad of problems that have arisen from it. "That's not a healthy public square." #techhearings
.@jack says for his parents Twitter has always been a source of joy. Well I guess it's good that two people in America have had that experience. #techhearings
Burr calling out Dorsey for reading notes from his phone. In more relevant news members will have 7 minutes each to ask questions today, one round. #techhearings
Burr up first. Asking Sandberg and Dorsey how they'd define social media. Sandberg wastes no time going right into the talking points about what makes Facebook great. #techhearings
Dorsey defines Twitter as a public square, a public space that hosts public conversations. (Also pretty standard Twitter talking points of late.) #techhearings
Burr asks Sandberg about what data Facebook collects on users, what data advertisers have, and what steps are being taken to make sure user data isn't being used to target them by foreign actors. #techhearings
(This was one of the questions from my preview post BTW) mediamatters.org/blog/2018/09/0…
Burr asking about collaboration with government, law enforcement, and one another. Both Dorsey and Sandberg enthusiastically respond that collaboration is ongoing. #techhearings
Sandberg and Dorsey both agree that when it comes to detecting foreign interference they're not in competition but will work together to affect Americans. #techhearings
Warner up now. His first question for @Jack is about automated accounts: Should a Twitter user have a right to know if a user is a bot? Jack says yes to more info, "as far as we can detect them." #techhearings
I'd give Dorsey shit here but everyone I talk to in this space tells me that it is, in fact, getting much harder to detect bots. And that we could have a future where bots talk to bots and no one would know that's happening. #techhearings
Warner also asking Sandberg about data, specifically that most users don't actually know how much data Facebook has on them or how said data is used. #techhearings
Sandberg touts Facebook's data transparency. Warner asks if users have a right to know how much money Facebook makes from their data. Shockingly Sandberg is non-committal. #techhearings
.@SenatorRisch is up now. Starts out chastising the companies for their lack of specifics offered. Threatens regulation if they don't get it together. #techhearings
Risch asks what teams are in charge of fighting interference. Sandberg says at Facebook it lives with the policy team. Risch asks how much general agreement versus debate there is when this team moderates.
Dorsey says at Twitter there's a "trust and safety" team that reports to legal, that reports directly to him.
Risch asks if companies make any distinction between a US citizen and a noncitizen when weighing the activity of actors online. #techhearings
Sandberg says citizenship doesn't enter into the equation for general online discussion but absolutely does for ads which are regulated by law. Dorsey says this is similar at Twitter. #techhearings
I appreciate this line of questioning because most users of these platforms have no idea what goes on behind the curtain, what the rules are, and who the gatekeepers are. Sadly the answers are probably too broad to be useful. #techhearings
.@RonWyden up now. Asking about "consumer privacy as a national security issue." #techhearings
"Personal data is now the weapon of choice for political influence campaigns." @RonWyden #techhearings
Wyden asking about microtargeting to run voter suppression ads, something Russian propagandists did. Wants to know if Facebook currently disallows the practice. Sandberg says it has no place on Facebook. #techhearings
Friendly reminder that the Trump campaign bragged about their voter suppression ads (yes, they called them that) in 2016. Curious to know if Facebook will allow this in 2018 and beyond. #techhearings theguardian.com/technology/201…
Rubio up now. A reminder that he has previously disclosed his campaign was targeted by Russia in 2016. #techhearings
Rubio asks tech companies what happens when authoritarians start asking for things (like say, China). Asks Facebook and Twitter what their values are. #techhearings
BTW Rubio, like other Republicans, has been getting tremendous pressure to focus on the "conservative bias" myth today. Looks like he has chosen not to take the bait so far. #techhearings
Rubio asks tech companies to commit to supporting the principles of democracy around the world, even if it means that can't operate in a country with an authoritarian government. #techhearings
.@MartinHeinrich is up now. Asking Facebook and Twitter what they've learned since 2016 and how that influences their current posture. #techhearings
Both Sandberg and Dorsey are touting what they've learned from elections not just in the US but around the world. #techhearings
.@MartinHeinrich asks if the incentives to protect users have aligned with the incentives to make a profit. Sandberg says yes and that user trust is essential. Dorsey says we need to question fundamental incentives. of how social media companies profit. #techhearings
This gets to the core of the problem: Social media as a race to the bottom might be profitable but it's also a national security problem. And there's risk that users will lose trust and the model will fail anyway. #techhearings
Heinrich asks about conspiracy theories that cause real harm on the platforms. Sandberg touting more good speech to compete with bad speech. Also again states that FB doesn't want to be the arbiter of truth. #techhearings
(I have to wonder if she'd give the same answer to a Sandy Hook parent or a Parkland survivor.) #techhearings
Brief recess! Back in 5. #techhearings
I'm relieved that the right's attempt to turn this morning's hearing into a circus has failed so far. Alex Jones is in the room, as is Chuck Johnson. Loomer is running around. But the committee hasn't let it derail their questions so far. #techhearings
And we're back! @SenatorCollins up now. She's asking about Russian IRA accounts on Twitter, once they're taken down, what do you do to notify followers that they were exposed to Russian propaganda. #techhearings
.@jack admits that Twitter hasn't done enough, but doesn't detail what disclosure looks like or should look like. #techhearings
Aside: the problem is that when social media companies tell people they were duped, we know they don't believe it. I'm curious if social media companies have been testing different kinds of disclosure to find one that works. #techhearings
Collins really leaning into disclosure. Chastises tech companies for being slow to disclose, and behind academic researchers on informing the public. #techhearings
.@KamalaHarris up now. Both Twitter and Facebook are based in her state of California. She's asking for a followup to her question from a previous hearing about how much money tech companies made from Russian propaganda. #techhearings
Harris points out that she has asked this question multiple time and been stonewalled. (She has receipts) Facebook told her the answer was immaterial so she's asking Sandberg again.#techhearings
Harris is not having Sandberg's pat answers today... #techhearings
Sandberg says that 3 to 4% of accounts on Facebook at any given time are fake. That number seems low to me. #techhearings
Harris makes the point that the more users see ads, the more Facebook profits. Sandberg says only if those ads are relevant to the users seeing them. #techhearings
Harris also getting at the obvious problems of the race to the bottom business model and cites @lmneudert's work in her questioning. #techhearings
Harris, a former prosecutor, is now grilling Sandberg on Facebook's poor (and not at all transparent) hate speech policies, and what changes were made when. #techhearings
Harris leaning into a pet issue of mine: tech's failure to protect minors from harm and hate speech. #techhearings
@RoyBlunt is up now. If we get a question about "conservative bias" today my money would be on it coming from him. Hopefully, I'm wrong. #techhearings
Blunt asking Facebook if they determine between foreign or domestic accounts when taking content down. Sandberg says the focus is on taking down "inauthentic" accounts. #techhearings
Things you miss when you watch via livestream:
BTW I was wrong about @RoyBlunt. His line of questioning didn't even touch on "conservative bias." #techhearings
.@SenAngusKing up now. Mentions a meeting with countries who've been pummeled with Russian propaganda for years. They told him the best defense is for the people to know that it's happening. Asks tech companies how they're educating users. #techhearings
Sandberg touts Facebook's letting users know they're about to share false content. @jack doesn't even try to pretend that Twitter is any good at this. #techhearings
Sandberg claiming that the most important factor of what users see on Facebook are decisions they make. Which is kind of how we got here in the first place but wev. #techhearings
King is asking if the tech companies can detect deep fake videos and tag them as such for users. The answer is no, hence why Sandberg can only say that Facebook is working on it. #techhearings
.@SenatorLankford up now. Opens up talking about his concerns about deep fakes and urges tech companies to stay on top of combatting it. #techhearings
.@SenatorLankford also asking about suspended accounts. I wonder if the Intel committee is aware that the Library of Congress archives every tweet. #techhearings
Lankford is asking about shell companies purchasing ads and what the platforms have done to protect user data from this shady activity. #techhearings
Remember how I said that the far right would do anything they could to distract from this hearing's focus on election interference? That's what Jones was doing. #techhearings
.@Sen_JoeManchin up now. Asking about illegal opiads for sale on Facebook and Twitter, a huge problem for West Virginia which he represents. #techhearings
Machin is asking Sandberg and Dorsey how morally responsible they are for deaths of those who bought drugs from ads on their platform. An uncomfortable silence before Sandberg goes to answer. #TechHearings
Notable that neither Sandberg nor Dorsey would take any responsibility for these deaths. Says a lot about how much tech companies value the lives of their users. #techhearings.
Manchin is using Google's absence to make the point that Facebook and Twitter aren't blocked in China. Google isn't. Meaning Google made compromises that Facebook and Twitter wouldn't make. #techhearings
.@TomCottonAR is up now. Goes even further on how much Google capitulated on their values to operate in China, and suggests that's why they didn't send their CEO to testify. #techhearings
Cotton is asking Twitter for more details about their refusing to let Russia Today and Sputnik to advertise on Twitter. Cotton asks if Twitter will consider expanding this to other entities. #techhearings
Cotton asking Jack if Twitter, an American company, will put America first And if working with the US government would be the same as working with the Russian or Chinese government. #techhearings
Cotton, a former CIA agent, is now asking why Wikileaks are still allowed on Facebook and Twitter seeing as how they're an agent of the Russian government. #techhearings.
Sandberg and Dorsey both claiming that Wikileaks hasn't violated their TOS which is why they're still on the platforms. #Techhearings
Senator Reed up now. Asking about Twitter and Facebook's working relationship with law enforcement agencies. Dorsey again asks for more consolidated points of contact as a request. #techhearings
Reed asking about Facebook and Twitter's ability to follow the money to catch foreign interference on their platforms. Dorsey is asking for more help from law enforcement in this area. #techhearings
Reed, whose questions have been practical and tactical up to now, is now going broader. There's a global debate about data and who owns it. Asks if tech companies believe users own their data. #techhearings
We're back to Burr, who is turning to Warner, which means this hearing is wrapping up. #techhearings
Warner mentions bots again in his closing remarks, again pointing out that not all bots are bad but users have a right to know when they're interacting with one. #techhearings
Warner talking about the importance (and ease) of data portability. #techhearings
Burr asks if there are any laws that create obstacles for collaboration between companies to please let the committee know so they can work to clear them. #techhearings
Burr is closing by summarizing the committee's work to date on election interference issues. Emphasizes how easy social media manipulation is online. Again emphasizes that this was an attack on all Americans. #techhearings
"Russia neither leans left nor right. Russia seeks a weakened America. " Burr #techhearings
Burr points out that not only has Russia not stopped, other foreign actors are running their own ops now. Says companies and government must work together to stop them. #techhearings
And we're done. Please join me at 1:30 PM where I'll live tweet the kids' table hearing AKA House Energy and Commerce, where they'll ask @jack about "conservative bias" that doesn't actually exist for a couple of hours. Fun times. #techhearings
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