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Democrats press Facebook, Twitter again to probe Russia links to Republican memo

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Two senior U.S. Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday asked Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc to answer questions about potential Russian involvement in social media campaigns that urged release of a Republican memorandum alleging surveillance abuses at the FBI, saying the companies had provided insufficient responses so far.

The letter was the latest effort by Democrats, in the minority in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, to press social media companies on whether the Kremlin has used their platforms to meddle in U.S. politics.

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“It is unclear from your responses whether you believe any of the Russian-linked accounts involved in this influence campaign violated your respective user policies,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a joint statement.  

“We reiterate our request that you immediately take necessary steps to expose and deactivate such accounts if you determine that they violate your respective user policies,” they added.

At issue is an online campaign, using the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo, aimed at ensuring the release of the controversial, classified memorandum written by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee.

Democrats say the memo alleging surveillance abuses is highly misleading, based on a selective reading of highly classified material and designed to distract from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

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In its response, released publicly on Wednesday by the lawmakers, Twitter said a preliminary analysis using available geographical data related to the use of the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag did not identify “any significant activity connected to Russia.”

Twitter also said it observed use of the hashtag by high-profile accounts that have a high number of followers, which “plays a role in driving conversations around a hashtag.”

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It questioned the findings of an online dashboard maintained by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a project of the nonpartisan German Marshall Fund think tank, because the group does not publicly disclose the accounts it tracks.

Earlier this month, the alliance found a huge spike in use of the hashtag by Twitter known or suspected to be under Kremlin influence.

(Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Bill Rigby and Bill Trott)

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Anti-LGBT white supremacist to co-host new public affairs TV talk show that will Air on PBS

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Pat Buchanan, a longtime anti-LGBTQ white supremacist Christian nationalist pundit will co-host a re-boot of "The McLaughlin Group," a Sunday morning public affairs, news, and commentary TV talk show know for the fast and hot takes of its conservative creator, John McLaughlin. The show will be syndicated by Maryland Public Television and air on PBS stations, Media Matters reports.

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Hong Kong protesters kick off new weekend of rallies

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Hong Kong democracy activists kicked off a weekend of fresh protests on Saturday in a major test for the movement following criticism over an airport protest earlier this week -- and as concerns mount over Beijing's next move.

Ten weeks of demonstrations have plunged the international finance hub into crisis, with the communist-ruled mainland taking an increasingly hardline tone, including labelling the more violent protester actions "terrorist-like".

Activists are billing two planned rallies on Saturday and Sunday as a way to show Beijing and the city's unelected leaders that their movement still enjoys broad public support, despite increasingly violent tactics deployed by a minority of hardcore protesters that have cast a shadow.

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Water bacteria cancels Tokyo 2020 paratriathlon test swim

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The swimming section of a paratriathlon test event for Tokyo 2020 was cancelled Saturday due to high levels of bacteria in the water, the latest in a series of difficulties over water quality and temperature.

Olympic organizers have won widespread praise for their preparations but extreme summer heat and poor water quality have brought headaches at practice events, with less than a year to go until the opening ceremony.

The International Triathlon Union (ITU) shelved the swimming leg after tests showed levels of e-coli more than double the acceptable standard.

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