Russian Federation probes spur lawmakers on election security, social media

Wendy Jensen
October 20, 2017

"Russia attacked us and will continue to use different tactics to undermine our democracy and divide our country, including by purchasing disruptive online political ads".

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) have taken the wraps off the final draft of the Honest Ads Act, the bill aimed at keeping Russian election-meddlers off the political ad roles of Web sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google, and harmonize the disclosures of legitimate political ads across all platforms.

Although Twitter and Google were apparently key to spreading fake news previous year, much of the information war took place on Facebook, where hundreds of pages dedicated to United States election issues were reportedly controlled by Russian trolls.

This report comes after it was discovered that Russian Federation bought some 3,000 ads and cut Facebook a cheque for over $100,000 during the 2016 election. John McCain (R-AZ) that would require major social media platforms to label political ads in much the same way they're disclosed on television and radio.

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Facebook, Twitter and Google are expected to appear in an open hearing before the House and Senate's intelligence committees on November 1.

The Senate and House intelligence committees are two of the main congressional panels probing allegations that Russian Federation sought to interfere in the USA election to boost Republican President Donald Trump's chances of winning, and possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian Federation.

Facebook has turned over 3,000 paid political ads purchased by Russian-linked accounts to the House and Senate intelligence committees that which showed efforts to sow discord in the U.S. with posts on Black Lives Matter, gun rights and more.

The threshold was lowered because digital ads are much cheaper, Warner said. He argued that the bill introduced Thursday was a "light touch" approach to regulating the social media companies. "I operate on what I believe in, and if people agree, then they agree".

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"I think that they got the message", Warner said. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg made the rounds on Capitol Hill last week, meeting with top Republicans and Democrats as well as the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

"We're going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency", he added. "We have already announced the steps Facebook will take on our own and we look forward to continuing the conversation with lawmakers as we work toward a legislative solution", said Erin Egan, Facebook VP for US Public Policy in a statement to CNET. "They need to disclose and publicly register and notice who's buying ads for political purposes", said Klobuchar, of Minnesota.

It looks not only Russian Federation was buying commercials online to help influence the election a year ago, Facebook and Google also worked closely with conservative non-profit Secure America Now and advertising firm Harris Media on ad campaigns aiming swing state voters with anti-Muslim and anti-refugee messages, and linking Democratic candidates to terrorists, according to a report from Bloomberg. According to Facebook, someone buying an ad for $33 - the average cost suggested by the $100,000 the Russians spent on roughly 3,000 ads - could expect to reach between 11,000-63,000 users in one day.

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