Tech stocks tumble, as Facebook and Twitter grilled on U.S. election meddling

Larry Page Google

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who testified alongside Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, acknowledged to the Senate Intelligence Committee that the company was too slow to respond to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 USA election and general American political discourse, but insisted it is doing better.

Dorsey also live-tweeted his opening statement. Twitter is focusing on analyzing behavior patterns to find suspicious activity because Twitter technically allows "fake" accounts in the form of spoofs, for example. Many members of Congress fault social media platforms for failing to combat foreign efforts to influence us politics.

Google was invited to attend the Senate hearing but declined to send its chief executive Sundar Pichai or Larry Page, the head of its parent firm Alphabet.

Senators scolded Google executives for not showing up to the hearings Wednesday.

Twitter and Facebook executives were grilled on Capitol Hill Wednesday, amid the growing debate over political bias in social media and search.

"Period", Dorsey told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Ms Sandberg admitted Facebook had been too slow to respond to manipulative messaging from Russian Federation during the 2016 election season, but had sharply raised its response and was more pro-active now. Instead, a spokesperson for the committee said they may just leave a chair empty next to Sandberg and Dorsey.

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"We believe strongly in being impartial, and we strive to enforce our rules impartially", he said.

Dorsey said Twitter was working on a new type of transparency report (which would go onto its transparency subsite) focusing on quantifying instances of abuse and what's been done to stop abuse.

The start of the Senate hearing saw the sort of person the social media giants contend with in the form of Mr Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist with a considerable following, whose radio show has recently been taken off platforms like YouTube and Facebook. In testimony released before that hearing, Dorsey denied that Twitter uses political ideology to make decisions.

Senator Richard Burr, the committee's Republican chairman, said he expected the hearing would focus on solutions to the problem of foreign efforts to influence USA elections and sow political discord, with a jab at Google.

"I'm disappointed Google decided against sending the right senior level executive", Sen.

While antitrust concerns against Google and Facebook are to be expected, Eric Goldman of the High-Tech Law Institute of Santa Clara University said it would be troublesome to use antitrust law as a guise for regulating speech.

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