Members of the Senate Judiciary on Tuesday grilled executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google about ‘extremist content and Russian disinformation’ on their respective technology and advertising platforms.
During his questioning time before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) presented Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch with an example of an ad run by Russians during the 2016 presidential election.
“This is an ad run on Facebook in May of 2016 — a key moment in the primary campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, when both were closing in on the nomination. A group that claimed to be part of Texas…but was in fact this paid for by Russians in rubles,” Sen. Coons noted.
“This ad is nothing short of the Russian government directly interfering in our elections, lying to American citizens, duping folks who believe they are joining and supporting a group that is about veterans and based in Texas, when in fact it’s paid for in rubles by Russians,” Sen. Coons explained. “Should Facebook be a platform that foreign adversaries can use to run political ads?”
“Senator, that ad has no place on Facebook, and we are committed to preventing that sort of behavior from occurring again on our platform,” Facebook’s Stretch answered. “It’s something we take incredibly seriously. I think you’re right to surface it, it’s upsetting.”
“Russians also used Facebook to make up and promote political events. A group called ‘Being Patriotic’ shared their event, a miner’s for Trump rally to users in Pennsylvania. But again, this political event was in fact a fraud — organized, funded and supported by Russians,” Coons noted. “Russians trying to influence our elections duped Americans in Pennsylvania into coming to an event that was nothing but a fake.”
“This is a national security issue, and one that we are taking seriously. I know my colleagues are taking it seriously and we need to understand the scope of the threat, and we need to continue to work with law enforcement to make sure we’re sharing information and expertise to really address this thoroughly,” the Facebook executive said.