Twitter to talk to House, Senate in Russia probe

Social media giant Twitter will visit Capitol Hill Thursday as part of the House and Senate investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Twitter’s closed-door meetings with staff follow similar briefings from Facebook earlier this month, and the House and Senate panels have invited both tech giants, along with Google, to appear at public hearings this fall. The committees are scrutinizing the spread of false news stories and propaganda on social media, to what extent Russia was involved and whether anyone in the United States helped target those stories.

Unlike Facebook, which has said phony accounts on its platform attempted to stir up divisiveness in the election, Twitter has remained mostly silent. The two social media companies have different types of platforms, as Twitter allows users to register anonymously and has more public accounts than Facebook. Many lawmakers have expressed concerns about the proliferation of anonymous “bots” on Twitter and their potential to spread misinformation.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, said Wednesday that he hopes Twitter will be forthcoming.

“They have obviously a different business model, and also they’ve never tried to prevent fake accounts, use of bots,” Warner said, comparing the company to Facebook. “They don’t deny they have allowed more anonymity. So they’ve got a different business model, we’ve got different questions for them.”

Still, Warner said, the investigation is ultimately up to how people manipulated both of those platforms.

“People deserve to know,” Warner said.

Twitter last week confirmed that officials would be meeting with the Senate panel and issued a statement pledging to improve defenses on its platform.

“Twitter deeply respects the integrity of the election process, a cornerstone of all democracies, and will continue to strengthen our platform against bots and other forms of manipulation that violate our Terms of Service,” the company said in a statement.

Staff on both panels are likely to ask Twitter about the bots, and also about some of the potential vulnerabilities in terms of tracing potential foreign intrusions. There have been concerns among some lawmakers that the company doesn’t move quickly enough to remove posts and isn’t able to track the original postings that were spread and retweeted.

Twitter, Facebook and Google haven’t yet said whether they will accept the invitations to testify publicly before…

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