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Facebook and Twitter Have a Message for Lawmakers: We’re Trying

Facebook and Twitter Have a Message for Lawmakers: We’re Trying

Image“We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act. That’s on us,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said in prepared testimony ahead of a Wednesday congressional hearing on social media.CreditCreditDrew Angerer/Getty ImagesWASHINGTON — For months, Facebook, Twitter and Google have grappled with criticism over the misuse of their services by foreign…


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“We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act. That’s on us,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said in prepared testimony ahead of a Wednesday congressional hearing on social media.CreditCreditDrew Angerer/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — For months, Facebook, Twitter and Google have grappled with criticism over the misuse of their services by foreign operatives and the disproportionate influence of their platforms on people’s thinking.

On Wednesday, when Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, appear in Washington to testify on those issues, they plan to answer lawmakers’ questions using two main tactics: a conciliatory and apologetic approach, as well as a rundown of the growing number of efforts that the companies have taken to combatmanipulation and disinformation problems.

“We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act. That’s on us,” Ms. Sandberg said in prepared testimony that was obtained by The New York Times. “We’re getting better at finding and combating our adversaries, from financially motivated troll farms to sophisticated military intelligence operations.”

In testimony thatwas postedon Tuesday, Mr. Dorsey said, “Twitter is approaching these challenges with a simple question: How do we earn more trust from the people using our service? We know the way to earn more trust around how we make decisions on our platform is to be as transparent as possible.”

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In prepared testimony, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, said, “We know the way to earn more trust around how we make decisions on our platform is to be as transparent as possible.”CreditMike Cohen for The New York Times

The two executives, who are making their first appearances before Congress, are expected to face tough queries when they testify Wednesday morning at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about foreign manipulation of social media sites, with Mr. Dorsey appearing alone later in the afternoon at a House Energy and Commerce committee hearing on content moderation of the sites.

The tech executives’ strategy of appeasing lawmakers is likely to meet resistance, as animus toward the companies has beenwhipped up further by President Trumpin recent weeks over whether the social media sites are deliberately suppressing some information. And with the midterm elections in November, Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Dorsey will be under the gun to reveal whether the measures they have taken to prevent disinformation and manipulation are starting to work.

Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina and chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, had also invited Larry Page, chief executive of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to testify on Wednesday. But the company declined to send him and instead submitted written testimony from Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president for global affairs.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Mr. Walker tried to distinguish Google from Facebook and Twitter as less problematic and vulnerable to foreign meddling.

“While the nature of our services and the way we run our advertising operations appears to have limited the amount of state-sponsored interference on ourplatforms, no system is perfect — and we are committed to taking continuing action to address the issue,” Mr. Walker wrote in thepost.

Follow Cecilia Kang and Kate Conger on Twitter:@ceciliakangand@kateconger.

Cecilia Kang reported from Washington and Kate Conger from San Francisco. Sheera Frenkel contributed reporting.

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