Several of the largest tech companies in Silicon Valley had representatives testifying today on Capitol Hill. Pressure has been mounting on tech companies to turn over records that pertain to Russian influence in the 2016 election.
Scope Widens of Russian Social Media Propaganda
Top executives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter will have to sit for two days of questioning before Congress. All three tech giants announced yesterday that their previous estimates of the number of Russian agent accounts were all too low.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been slow to acknowledge Russia propaganda activity on the social media platform. Just yesterday, the New York Times reported that Russian agents disseminated inflammatory posts on Facebook that reached 126 million people. Facebook wasn’t alone here. Russian agents spread 131,000 messages on Twitter and uploaded over 1,000 videos on YouTube (owned by Google.) Therefore, these companies expect a grilling from congressional investigators.
In one example, Facebook pointed to the Internet Research Company (IRC). This is a Russian Internet group with ties to the Kremlin. Between 2015 and 2017, the IRC pubished 80,000 different pieces of content on Facebook. They initially reached 9 million people, but with likes and shares they reached tens of millions more.