Facebook, Twitter Heavies Set To Appear At Senate Hearing. Google May Be MIA | KERA News

Facebook, Twitter Heavies Set To Appear At Senate Hearing. Google May Be MIA

31 minutes ago

Top leaders from Facebook and Twitter are scheduled to face questions on Wednesday morning from senators investigating the Russian attack on the 2016 presidential election, but they may have no counterpart present from search behemoth Google.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey have agreed to appear at 9:30 before the Senate intelligence committee. Although Google was invited, it does not appear set to send a witness.

Intelligence committee chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., wanted either the CEO of Google or the CEO of its parent companies, Alphabet. The company countered by offering general counsel Kent Walker. Not good enough, Burr said.

Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said on Twitter that he hoped Google would change its mind and elect to participate.

If it doesn't, what was billed as another big hearing for Big Tech may include an empty chair at the table.

Google posted a copy of what it called Walker's prepared testimony on Tuesday.

In it, he hit the notes that all the tech bosses are expected to sound in their hearing: they appreciate the importance of fighting active measures, they're tightening their internal security and other practices, and they're prepared now in ways they weren't for the big influence campaign of 2016.

'This is fine'

Wednesday's hearing will be the second time this year that the intelligence committee has convened a public session on how social media platforms can be used to further foreign influence operations.

The committee also heard from social media experts back in August.

"Some feel that we as a society are sitting in a burning room, calmly drinking a cup of coffee, telling ourselves, 'This is fine.' That's not fine," Burr said in August.

"We should no longer be talking about if the Russians 'attempted' to interfere with American society. They've been doing it since the days of the Soviet Union, and they're still doing it today."

The last six months have eventful as social media companies and tech giants have repeatedly announced the disruption of various influence operations.

In late July, Facebook announced that it had removed 32 accounts involved in a political influence campaign with links to the Russian government.

Microsoft said it discovered and stopped an attempted cyberattack tied to Russia.

Then Facebook made another announcement: it had shut down hundreds of accounts linked to an Iranian-backed global disinformation campaign. Twitter then followed suit by deleting accounts linked to this Iranian campaign.

In the midst of all these alleged information operations, the Democratic National Committee reported that it had stopped what appeared to be an attempted cyber-intrusion into their voter data systems.

But what looked like an attack was actually a security test by friendly volunteers for the Michigan Democratic Party who didn't communicate that with the main DNC.

The Democrats' cybersecurity specialists have compared themselves to combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress following the deep embarrassment to the party after it was the victim of Russian attacks during the presidential election.

"I think we all still have PTSD from 2016," Raffi Krikorian, chief technology officer at the Democratic National Committee, told NPR.

The miscommunication within the DNC showed the current state of alarm: big tech, social media companies and politicians are on red alert about the issue of foreign intrusions and cyber-operations.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.