Social Media CEOs Grilled on Capitol Hill Over Election Meddling
Facebook, Google and Twitter CEOs will for the second time make an appearance before Congress in March to discuss the spread of misinformation, foreign interference, and other issues related to election meddling on their respective platforms.
This hearing is sure to be filled with tension as the three executives face further scrutiny from the government about their roles in the 2020 US Presidential Election.
Facebook, Google and Twitter CEOs Will Make Another Appearance Before Congress in March
Recent years have seen major tech firms and their CEOs grilled by lawmakers over foreign interference in the 2016 US elections and other controversial issues. This month, the heads of Facebook, Google, and Twitter spoke before U.S. congressional committees for two days of intensive questions about their efforts to address various topics related to online discourse, election security and foreign influence campaigns, among others.
The hearings focused on understanding the prevalence of foreign meddling on social media platforms ahead of the 2020 election. CEOs from all three companies highlighted the changes they had made since 2016 to detect and prevent future foreign interference attempts. However, they also expressed concern that political campaigns would use their services to “game” the system or manipulate public sentiment.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asserted that his company was committed to fighting misinformation through transparency initiatives like labelling tweets as containing false or misleading information or modifying its algorithms that favour authoritative sources in recommendations and search results. Mark Zuckerberg stated that Facebook was leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) with teams of fact-checkers around the globe and would soon be rolling out real-time fact checking systems before ads are approved for publication on Facebook and Instagram. Finally, Sundar Pichai from Google emphasised its commitment to utilising open source technologies such as AI translation tools and machine learning technology to flag harmful online content for removal by trained moderators.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be making his third appearance before Congress in March to answer questions about the role of Facebook in facilitating election meddling. The hearing will focus on the role of Facebook and other social media companies in protecting their platforms from foreign interference, safeguarding user data, and preserving the integrity of elections.
Zuckerberg will be joined by Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as they face off against lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Testimony
On October 23, 2018, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the House Committee on Financial Services regarding social media use in elections. During the hearing, he discussed various issues including privacy, user data and security.
Zuckerberg emphasised that Facebook has made significant changes to its platform to address election interference since the 2016 U.S presidential election. He stated that they have removed hundreds of pages and accounts linked to foreign and domestic sources violating their terms of service. Zuckerberg also announced plans to add 20 000 new employees worldwide focused on security and discussed the improvements they have made to their systems so far. In addition, he stated that they are now using machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems to proactively detect potential bad actors, fraudulent activity and foreign meddling in elections globally.
The aim of this hearing was for lawmakers to better understand how major tech companies are working with government agencies to ensure secure elections and how user data is being collected, stored and handled by these companies. In addition, the hearings represent an effort from Congress to ensure social media sites like Facebook are taking the necessary steps for online safety for all users worldwide.
Facebook’s Actions to Combat Election Interference
To increase transparency and discourage election interference, Facebook has taken several steps to address concerns over its role in the 2016 US election. For example, in June 2018, Facebook announced new initiatives to fight foreign meddling in US elections, announcing policy changes and increased investments in technology and personnel.
Facebook began using machine learning to detect patterns of misuse and announced plans to employ up to 20,000 people worldwide by the end of 2018 devoted solely to safety and security. The company also implemented additional notifications encouraging users who saw suspicious accounts or content to report it directly. Finally, Facebook committed $100 million over three years for advertising about civic engagement on their platform with resources for organisations that have traditionally been underrepresented in politics.
The company also strengthened their enforcement actions such as banning malicious actors who use fake accounts or misleading tactics such as “false amplification” – creating duplicate posts or comments with supportive language – on their platform. Additionally, they increased their operations by cross-referencing users’ reports against a malware database of suspected malicious actors who violate their policies related to elections fraud – which has led them to remove tens of thousands of suspicious accounts in recent months.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai is scheduled to appear before Congress on March 25th to discuss the role of tech companies in influencing the 2020 election. He and the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter have been increasingly scrutinised by lawmakers over the issue of election interference, with many congressional members suggesting that the tech giants have not done enough to stop foreign actors from using their platforms to influence the US election.
With this upcoming appearance, Pichai and the other CEOs will have a chance to present their views and explain their companies’ efforts to combat this kind of interference in the future.
CEO Sundar Pichai’s Testimony
CEO Sundar Pichai testified before Congress on September 5, 2019 in response to questions about Google’s role in election meddling. He faced 4 hours of questioning from members of the House Judiciary Committee on topics ranging from their handling of political data to their bias against conservative viewpoints.
In his testimony, Pichai said it was not the company’s intention to interfere with the 2020 election. He also spoke about Google’s efforts to protect user privacy and offered assurances that the company’s algorithms and processes are designed to show impartial results, regardless of political views. In addition, he stated that search results are based solely on relevance and denied allegations of bias against conservatives.
Pichai also addressed concerns about potential censorship by Google and other tech giants, arguing that companies often find it difficult to balance content moderations and free speech rights. He referred to Google’s recently announced policies clamping down on hate speech, emphasising how they strive for a safe online environment while protecting everyone’s right to express themselves without fear of censorship or retaliation.
He concluded his statement by assuring members of Congress that Google continues “to take responsibility as a global public citizen” and is committed “to making sure our products help create a better life for all.”
Google’s Actions to Combat Election Interference
In response to inquiries and criticism in the U.S. Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s hearing on election interference and social media, Google CEO Sundar Pichai outlined the company’s efforts to combat foreign interference. According to Pichai, Google is actively taking steps to ensure that its platforms “refuse money from foreign sources looking to spread disinformation” and “make sure no foreign political actors can run advertisements about elections.”
Google has invested significantly in tools, policies and personnel with a commitment of more than $300 million since 2016. As part of those efforts, Google has:
- Improved its systems for detecting malicious or deceptive activities outside the U.S.
- Expanded their security teams for Watchdog campaigns.
- Trained their staff on key election principles.
- Initiated preventative measures such as review processes for political ads before they appear online.
Google has removed more than 5 million suspect URLs between January 1st and July 21st of this year as well as identified more than 3 billion suspicious emails between June 1st and July 20th; additionally, they have released trust indicators alongside news stories in Search results to help users understand where information comes from. Furthermore, they have partnered with civic organisations like Voatz (a secure voting mobile app) providing technical support during elections while working with organisations like Internews that are helping civically engaged users online by educating them about election-related topics such as voter registration procedures.
Finally, Pichai mentioned new initiatives such as launching a Transparency Report for Ads related to politics and government around the world which will include additional parties like organisations running issue-based Ads on relevant topics seen around key dates during election season; also launching a Civic Information Project which focuses on helping voters access useful information about their local elections including information about candidates or ballot initiatives that would be available publicly or through shared data partnerships with governments so it can be accessible within Search results during times when people need it most — before Election Day itself.
March is a big month for the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter, as they are all set to appear before Congress again to discuss election meddling. This hearing aims to explore how the tech companies are protecting the accuracy and integrity of the 2020 elections. Twitter arguably faces the most scrutiny since it has become a major platform for political discourse in recent years.
In this article, we’ll look at what the hearing will entail from a Twitter perspective:
CEO Jack Dorsey’s Testimony
On Wednesday, October 23rd, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified before the U.S. House panel about the company’s handling of 2020 Election interference. In his remarks, he defended Twitter’s actions in combating attempts from other countries to interfere with the U.S. election and emphasised that it would continue to be vigilant against such attempts in the future.
Dorsey detailed several steps that Twitter had taken during and since the 2020 election – including blocking millions of accounts and taking down hundreds of thousands tweets containing false information about voting or election results – but also took responsibility for some issues, such as its failure to stop certain users from rapidly uploading false images aimed at undermining faith in democracy. However, he also noted that it had been “incredibly difficult” to detect all the malicious activities on its platform during such a dynamic election cycle, making it even more important to strengthen its proactive enforcement measures.
Dorsey also discussed how Twitter had put into place a dedicated Election Integrity Operations Center which actively monitored content related to elections across 30 different countries during its two months of operation between August and October 2020, while separately working with other technology companies on global initiatives like blocking foreign IP addresses contributing to political meddling campaigns. He concluded by describing how Twitter is committed to improving its reactive and proactive systems to protect users from deceptive information or manipulation tactics related to elections and all areas of public conversation on their platform.
Twitter’s Actions to Combat Election Interference
Twitter has taken several steps over the years to combat foreign election interference. As part of its efforts to safeguard the upcoming elections in 2020, Twitter has doubled its dedicated security employees to more than 350, increased its investments in safety and security tools and dramatically increased proactive detection, and intervention efforts across several domains.
In addition, Twitter has taken new measures about election advertisers by introducing a range of requirements to bring transparency to political ads worldwide. For example, ads must come from an authorised advertiser and have “Editorial Transparency Labels” that show who funded them and elaborate disclaimers where applicable. In addition, certain categories of political content are not approved for advertising given the risk and sensitivity associated with them.
Twitter also recently announced plans to roll out new information labels for US candidates running for federal office that will be displayed prominently on accounts starting in September 2020 furthering the company’s commitment to protecting against false or misleading information on elections. Additional checks are also applied when influence campaigns are active including an evaluation process done by highly trained specialists who review options about removal or other enforcement options such as labelling or suspension.
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