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Congress grills Facebook, Twitter over foreign bids to tilt politics

Congress grills Facebook, Twitter over foreign bids to tilt politics

The social media executives underwent questioning before the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday.

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones held a press conference outside the Senate hearing room as the testimony began to criticize the social media companies for banning him and his website Infowars from their platforms.

He added: "Abuse, harassment, troll armies, propaganda through bots and human coordination, misinformation campaigns, and divisive filter bubbles - that's not a healthy public square".

CNBC reported Google tried to send its top lawyer to the hearing on foreign interference in USA elections, but the committee wanted either CEO Larry Page or Sundar Pichai to testify alongside executives from Twitter and Facebook.

Pai offered no specific proposals, but appeared to echo concerns raised by Trump, who claimed tech firms may be biased against conservatives.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has been looking into efforts to influence USA public opinion for more than a year, after us intelligence agencies concluded that Kremlin-backed entities sought to boost Republican President Donald Trump's chances of winning the White House in 2016.

They are under heavy pressure from President Trump, who has threatened to take action over the social media giants not giving more prominence to conservative voices and positive information about his administration.

Twitter ended the day down 6 per cent; Facebook was down 2.33 per cent.

The statement from Dorsey released by a House panel covered questions about foreign influence operations on social media as well as accusations of political bias.

Also on Wednesday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, wrote: "It's an arms race, and it will take the combined forces of the U.S. private and public sectors to protect America's democracy from outside interference".

"We did take way too many hours to act, and we are using that as a lesson to help improve our systems", Dorsey said.

"Each of you have come a long way with respect to recognizing the threat", Senator Mark Warner, the committee's top-ranking Democrat, said.

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.

Dorsey's prepared testimony also said Twitter has continued to find accounts that may be linked to the Russians, saying 3,843 accounts have been suspended.He also says the company has seen recent activity.

Dorsey will then participate in a second hearing Wednesday afternoon before the House Energy & Commerce Committee, where he is set to discuss the algorithms Twitter uses to serve content on users' Twitter feeds and "content monitoring". Walker said in his statement that the company was taking the issue of foreign interference in politics very seriously.

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