Twitter Inc is expected to brief USA congressional investigators soon on whether Russian Federation used its advertising platform to promote divisive social and political messages during the 2016 election, Senator Mark Warner said on Thursday.
The company said its findings regarding Russian Federation have been shared with USA authorities investigating the issues, and it says it will continue to work with investigators as necessary.
The world’s largest social network was already under fire for how little transparency it provides about digital political ads.
“As you see for example in the case of Facebook, they denied that they were being used in any way”.
Senator Mark Warner said Congress may need to update laws in order to make them consistent with rules governing television advertising.
“And you know, the first reaction from Facebook, of course, was ‘well, you’re insane, nothing’s going on, ‘” Warner, a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said at a national security conference in Washington. Numerous accounts were crudely designed and used stilted, awkward language, and many of their posts were not widely sharedthroughout social media.
“We know they had a cyber operation, we suspect USA persons may have been involved, now we know a USA company was used. You can go look at the ad”, Senator Warner said on Thursday. Russian Federation has repeatedly denied the allegations.
It’s now unclear if the ads themselves, regardless of their origin, violated federal law, which prohibits foreign nationals from spending money to influence a United States election.
Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he believed what Facebook disclosed was “the tip of the iceberg” and that Twitter Inc and other tech companies should also examine the issue.
A spokesman for Mueller’s office declined to comment on whether it has sought or will seek subpoenas from the grand jury it is working with to obtain Facebook’s records. The spokesperson also declined to say whether Facebook would reveal the ads publicly after Mueller’s investigation was concluded.
Warner’s committee is among those investigating alleged Russian meddling and whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow.
How this news will affect Facebook’s ad-buying policies remains a question.
“Does it reflect sophistication and coordination, or did they throw $100,000 at this just to try a bunch of stuff?” he said.
Then there is the issue of whether Facebook has installed sufficient defenses to identify and reject foreign-based political advertising for US elections.
“To the extent that Facebook and other social media companies don’t voluntarily cooperate, I would expect subpoenas to be issued and other legal avenues to be pursued”, she added – though it’s uncertain whether the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees would oblige Democrats’ push to compel cooperation.
FILE PHOTO – A 3D plastic representation of the Facebook logo is seen in this illustration photo May 13, 2015.
Another point for consideration is whether political advertising on social media should be subject to disclosure laws that apply to broadcast spots.
Facebook’s revelation about the Russian ads followed months of denials by the company that Russia or other organized actors used its platform to influence election results through the dissemination of fake news. Facebook is especially valued by advertisers due to its targeting capabilities. Many such ads are created to automatically disappear once they’ve been viewed by Facebook customers.
Facebook also said it was continuing its investigation into possible nefarious activity.
A new analysis by Facebook into whether Russian Federation tried to interfere with last fall’s USA presidential election by purchasing ads on the social media network has found a connection between the country and fake accounts.
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said after the November election that it was a “pretty insane idea” to think false news stories on the network tilted the election.
Facebook, on the other hand, is taking new steps to crack down on fake accounts.
Much of the advertising on Facebook and Google is self-serve and can be easily ordered up through their websites. Facebook in April released a report on “information operations” on the site, including some aimed at influencing the French election this past spring.