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Tech giants dragged before US Congress

The US Senate is undertaking an Intelligence hearing into Facebook, Twitter and Google’s involvement in allowing foreign agents to interfere with the 2016 presidential elections.

The hearing is investigating the extent to which Russian operatives were involved in altering the election, utilising social media to sway users.

“This is about national security, this is about corporate responsibility, and this is about the deliberate and multifaceted manipulation of the American people by agents of a hostile foreign power,” said Republican Senator Richard Burr.

General counsels of the tech giants were shown posts and advertisements touching on contentious issues such as LGBTIQ treatment, race, immigration and police brutality created by Russian operatives, exemplifying their role in creating social division within the nation.

The posts displayed at the hearing also showed how Russian agents intended to create political division by creating anti-Hillary Clinton posts in the lead up to the election.

One ad posted by the Army of Jesus Facebook page, depicted Satan and Jesus arm wrestling, with the headline “Satan: If I win, Clinton wins! / Jesus: Not if I can help it!”

Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein believes the tech companies needed to be doing more to combat the issue.

“You bear this responsibility, you’ve created these platforms and now they are being misused and you have to be the ones doing something about it.”

The executives testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee showed their remorse and willingness to do better.

Colin Stretch, Facebook general counsel, said that the fact foreign agents were able to use the platform for their purposes was a deeply painful lesson, and one the company was focused on learning from.

Google general counsel, Kent Walker, argued the company would make an effort to be more transparent.

“We’re also going to make it easier for users to understand who bought the information ads they see on our networks. Going forward, users will easily be able to find the name of any advertiser running an election ad on search, YouTube or the Google Display Network”.

The inquiry is continuing.

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