WASHINGTON — Leaders of Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday acknowledged they could have done more on their sites to safeguard the 2016 presidential election — but defended their efforts since then to root out foreign adversaries and bad actors.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, took responsibility for allowing Russians to use its platform to meddle in the election.
“We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act,” she admitted. “That is on us.”
But the tech giants assured lawmakers they have learned from their mistakes and made significant investments and changes to root out false accounts and foreign ads.
“Senators, let me be clear,” Sandberg told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “We are more determined than our opponents and we will keep fighting. When bad actors try to use our site, we will block them. When content violates our policy we will take it down. … Everyone here today knows that this is an arms race. And that means we need to be ever more vigilant.”
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said the company was “unprepared and ill-equipped” for how its platform was weaponized during the election season, but said the company has “made significant progress” since.
“We’ve seen positive results from our work,” Dorsey said. “We‘re now removing over 200 percent more accounts for violating our policies. We’re identifying and challenging 8 to 10 million suspicious accounts every week. And we’re thwarting over a half million accounts from logging in to Twitter every day.”
Senators are mulling several ways to regulate tech companies, from requiring transparency in advertising spending, rooting out bots and inauthentic accounts, and better data privacy and protections for consumers.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) praised the companies for the strides they’ve taken, but said Congress will have to take action.
“The era of the Wild West in social media is coming to an end,” Warner said.
Larry Page, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, declined an invitation to appear so the committee left an empty seat at the witness table to shame him.
“I’m disappointed that Google decided against sending the right senior level executive to participate,” said committee chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
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