Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey and Facebook chief operations officer Sheryl Sandberg will testify in an open hearing at the Senate Intelligence Committee next week, the committee’s chairman has confirmed.
Larry Page, chief executive of Google parent company Alphabet, was also invited but has not confirmed his attendance, a committee spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) said in a release that the social media giants will be asked about their responses to foreign influence operations on their platforms in an open hearing on September 5.
It will be the second time the Senate Intelligence Committee, which oversees the government’s intelligence and surveillance efforts, will have called the companies to testify. But it will be the first time that senior leadership will attend — though, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg did attend a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in April.
It comes in the wake of Twitter and Facebook recently announcing the suspension of accounts from their platforms that they believe to be linked to Iranian and Russian political meddling. Social media companies have been increasingly under the spotlight in the past years following Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election with disinformation.
A Twitter spokesperson said the company didn’t yet have details to share on the committee’s prospective questions. TechCrunch also reached out to Google and Facebook for comment and will update when we hear back.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been rather scarce lately, despite a host of woes besetting his company — but Wednesday he emerged from his cocoon to offer a limp apology, admit they had no control over data like that used by Cambridge Analytica, and that he “will happily” testify before Congress if he’s the right person to do so.
Well, Congress has taken him at his word. “You are the right person to testify before Congress,” wrote the leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a letter detailed early this morning. His capacity as CEO and “the employee who has been the leader of Facebook through all the key strategic decisions since its launch” make him the best person to testify.
Earlier this week Senators Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kennedy (R-LA) from the Senate Judiciary Committee specifically asked for Zuckerberg as well.
Senator Kennedy had sharp words (in a CNN interview) for Facebook and other tech companies that sent along some smooth operators to talk to them back in November: “We had one hearing — they all sent their lawyers. I don’t know what they paid them but they got their money’s worth, cause their lawyers didn’t say a damn thing.”
He and others are asking that the man himself to come along.
Kennedy said FB lawyers won't do: "They didn't say a damn thing, which was what they were paid to do," he said about Nov. Russia hearings "I'd encourage Mr. Zuckerberg to do the common sense thing and roll up his sleeves and take a meaningful amount of time talking to us"
— CeciliaKang (@ceciliakang) March 23, 2018
The Senate Commerce Committee also desires his presence.
At this point it would be pretty dangerous for Zuckerberg not to heed the call. Lawmakers don’t take kindly to captains of industry who send underlings instead of tackling major issues like this personally.
As the Open Markets Institute’s Matt Stolller points out in an insightful tweet storm, however, the shortcomings of Facebook’s privacy rules are only part of the story. Once Congress has Zuckerberg in the hot seat, they might consider taking on the idea that Facebook has been playing news organizations and publishers like a fiddle.
The first half of Thursday’s Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s hearing on Russian disinformation campaigns wasn’t quite as fun as watching James Comey squirm his way around classified intel in the House, but it did provide some valuable context on Russian cyber methods and social media campaigns. Read More
Social – TechCrunch
- Data scientists: Bring the narrative to the forefront
- Core Web Vitals & Preparing for Google’s Page Experience Update
- Conversion modeling through Consent Mode in Google Ads
- The search dilemma: looking beyond Google’s third-party cookie death
- The FDA’s Decision to Pause J&J Could Help Defeat Covid-19