Twitter to Meet With Congressional Committees in Russia Election Probe

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Representatives from Twitter are due to speak Thursday with members of the House and Senate intelligence committees in connection with the ongoing probes into Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. elections.

The closed-door sessions follow similar briefings earlier this month with Facebook, which has also agreed to provide lawmakers with 3,000 Russia-linked ads involving divisive social and political issues that were placed on its platform.

The committees are examining the spread of false news stories and whether anyone in the United States aided in targeting content to certain users. In the case of Twitter, that includes examining so-called bot accounts that are set up to quickly and automatically spread information.

“Twitter deeply respects the integrity of the election process, a cornerstone of all democracies, and will continue to strengthen our platform against bots and other forms of manipulation that violate our Terms of Service,” the company said in a statement, while noting it is cooperating with the investigation.

The meetings with technology companies have so far been closed to the public, but both the House and Senate intelligence committees are planning to hold public hearings about the use of online tools in connection with efforts to influence the election.

The committees have invited Facebook, Twitter and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, to appear, with the House panel planning to hold its hearing in October and the Senate committee in early November.

Boost Trump, hurt Clinton

U.S. intelligence agencies said in a report earlier this year that it was their assessment Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at the U.S. election in order to boost President Donald Trump’s chance of winning while hurting the campaign of Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.

Trump has expressed skepticism of the conclusion, including in July saying, “I think it could very well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries, and I won’t be specific.”

The president, who has frequently criticized the media, on Wednesday used Twitter to suggest Facebook worked with television news companies and top U.S. newspapers to work against him during the election.

Reaction from Facebook CEO

“Trump says Facebook is against him. Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like. That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a response to Trump’s tweet.

“After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea,” Zuckerberg added. “Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it. This is too important an issue to be dismissive. But the data we have has always shown that our broader impact — from giving people a voice to enabling candidates to communicate directly to helping millions of people vote — played a far bigger role in this election.”

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