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Facebook, Twitter and Google avoid supporting US law for greater transparency

Washington DC, Oct 31 (EFE).– Executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter on Tuesday expressed their commitment to tackle issues related to the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections, but avoided supporting a law proposed by US senators to create new transparency requirements, similar to those for television.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the leaders of the three social media giants vowed to implement more internal regulations to prevent other countries from exploiting their ad services, but avoided explicitly endorsing any legislative proposals.

((T-B) Colin Stretch, general counsel for Facebook, Sean Edgett, acting general counsel for Twitter, Richard Salgado, director of law enforcement and information security at Google, testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on ‘Extremist Content and Russian Disinformation Online: Working with Tech to Find Solutions’ on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, USA, 31 October 2017. EFE

In early October, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and veteran Republican Senator John McCain presented a legislative proposal which aims to regulate social networks in a manner similar to television and radio.

When asked by Klobuchar whether they support the proposal, the three representatives said they support the work of Congress and reaffirmed their commitment to achieve more transparency in the future, but without expressing their support for the current legislative proposal.

During the hearing, numerous senators voiced their concern regarding the power that Facebook, Google and Twitter have over public opinion.

Although the tech companies have applied new internal regulations to their social media sites in recent weeks, they still do not have to report to an external party, such as Congress, which will ensure the fulfillment of those regulations, according to Senator Klobuchar.

Last week, for example, Twitter announced that it will ban the advertising of all accounts on its platform belonging to Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, Russian media linked to the Kremlin and considered by US intelligence to be allies in Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election campaign.

Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch said during the hearing that Facebook is revising its advertising policy to prevent foreign governments from using its platform for propaganda and also to eradicate the propaganda of Muslim extremist groups, which has published violent content on the site to attract followers.

Google, on the other hand, announced on Monday that it will verify the origin of the entities that buy its ad services related to the elections, and assured that the company will establish a database where the buyers that post advertisements related to the elections will be identified in detail.

The three technological giants agreed that, from 2015, social media accounts linked to Russia began to exploit their services to influence the 2016 elections by making announcements on controversial issues, such as the right to bear arms, with the aim of dividing Americans.

They also acknowledged that the number of accounts linked to Russian propaganda sites during the 2016 elections grew more that they had previously expected, specifically the ones linked to Internet Research Agency, a company that is dedicated to promoting the positions of the Russian Government in social networks, video portals and news sites on the internet.

The representatives of Google, Twitter and Facebook will return Wednesday to testify before two other committees of Congress.

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