tv Russia and Social Media Hearing CSPAN October 31, 2017 2:31pm-5:39pm EDT
thaurnk you all. here is the order of battle today. i'll make an opening statement. i think senator feinstein would like to make one and senator grassley, he'll certainly be allowed to do so. the title of this hearing is extreme content and russian disinformation online, working with tech to find solutions. that's exactly what we want to do. we're here to try to find solutions. let me describe, i think the challenge. i doubt if i would be here if it weren't for social media to be honest with you president trump told fox news on october 20th, 2017. so this is the president of the united states saying that from his point of view, social media was an invaluable tool to help him win an election. i would dare say any politician up here asking today asking your questions uses your service. we find it invaluable to communicate with our constituents and get our message
out. not only do we use it, not only does the president use it, millions of americans use your technology to share the first step of a grandchild, the talk about good and bad things in our lives. i would like to say to all of you you've enriched america. we have more information available to us because of what you do. we can find almost the answer to any questions. when was the pentagon built. we can share aspects of our lives to those who mean the most to us. and we can talk amongst ourselves in 140 characters. the technology can also put our nation at risk. the platforms i just described that add value to individual american lives and to our country also can be used by terrorists to recruit in cyber world, people to their cause,
can be used by foreign governments. we've seen an example of that in 2016. to create chaos within our democracy. information is power. ideas are the essence of democracy, the exchange of ideas, being able to criticize each other is one of the things that we cherish the most. but what we have to be on guard as a nation is having people who want to undermine our way of life usings the these platforms against us. i think this is the national security challenge of the 21st century. here's what general petraeus said about jihadists online. they have shown particular facility in exploiting ungoverned or even inadequately governed spaces in the islamic world. there are also exploiting the vast largely ungoverned spaces in cyber space. demonstrating increasing technical expertise, sophi
sophistication in media production and the agility in various efforts to limit its access. it's clear that our counterextremi counterextremism efforts have been inadequate. i think that's a fair statement. and the purpose of this hearing is to figure out how we can help you. i believe that each of you in your own way are taking these problems seriously. the one thing i can say without a doubt what we're doing collectively is not working. yet a foreign government apparently buying thousands of dollars' worth of advertising to create discontent and discord in the 2016 election. foreign entities going to websites to create fights among americans, like we don't have enough to fight about on our own. so the bottom line is these platforms are being used by people who wish us harm and wish to undercut our way of life. if you're a man like putin democracy is your worst nightmare. if you live in putin's russia
the idea about exchanging information about what's good and bad about your government is something you dare not do because you won't last very long. so to those who wish to undermine the american way of life they've found portals into our society that are intermingled with every day life and the challenge of this hearing and of this focus is to how do we keep the good and deal with the bad. we'll never be 100% perfect but the goal is to be better than we are today to the extent that legislation can help, we would like to know about what we could do to help. we all want to be on the record and say it is not. so with that i'll turn it over to senator whitehouse. >> thank you senator graham for organizing this fourth subcommittee hearing into russia's mettling in the 2016
election. i'm very proud of the work we're doing on this issue, i hope it will continue. i hope that you and your team, me and my team as loyal partners in this effort. understanding what happened, how russia applied the varied methods in its election interference toolbox to interfere with our democracy, is an important step toward protecting the integrity of future elections and of our democratic process. each hearing the subcommittee holds gets us closer to that understanding. but our first hearing back in march we talked about the subcommittee's intent, and i quote, to begin a public conversation about the means and methods russia uses to undermine democratic government. we heard testimony from expert witnesses who ul ooutlined the various tools through which the kremlin exerts influence abroad.
to hacking and leaking stolen information, to disinformation propaganda and provocation through both traditional and social media networks. at a hearing in may i went through a check list of russia's toolbox to see which methods had been deployed against the united states in 2016. we'll learn more today about one of those methods, propaganda, fake news, trolls and bots. from representatives of major american tech company and outside experts. the russian government exploited social media platforms as part of a wide ranging campaign targeted against america and american voters. as we explore how that campaign worked and how we might better insulate ourselves in the future, let's recap what we've learned in our hearings and what we still don't know. we certainly saw the hacking of political information by russia.
something no person can dispute. timed leaks of damaging material was the fruits of that crime. we know what happened but we don't know what decisions were made what to leak and when. it's been said that roger stone communicated through a cutout. and a data analytics firm offered information to julian assange. and we have the mueller probe. but we don't know the full story of who coordinated with wikileaks or even directly with russian hackers. another method we've heard about is the exploitation of shady business and financial ties. we've heard testimony from a number of witnesses both here in the subcommittee and hearings at the helsinki communication that the u.s. can allow foreign
influence schemes to channel funds to compromise individual and exert political influence. we still know next to nothing about the president's business dealings in russia or with russians except that he's long chased afterdeeldeals there. his tax returns would put an end to those questions but those tax returns have not been made public. paul manafort's long history of suspicious dealings with russia has yielded his indictment. the indictment exposed gaping holes in enforcement and in picking up on false statements and international money laundering. if you can use his alleged scheme to buy property, why not use it to make anonymous political expenditures? or spend money to influence elections. we still don't have answers about the president's curious relationship with felix sadar who was chasing business with
michael cohen well after the presidential campaign had begun. we haven't been able to speak with them and we still don't have answers on this front. we know that the russians tried to corrupt and compromise political figures in order to exert influence over them. we don't know to what extent that happened here, but we do know the trump campaign and administration has had a very bad habit of forgetting about meetings with russians. michael flynn is still the only person to be held accountable for hiding improper contacts with russia, even as more and more such contacts have emerged in the intervening months. paul manafort, jared kushner and the president's son met with a russian lawyer sent to deliver damaging information of his opponent in june 2016. mr. kushner has apparently amended his security clearance application multiple times to reflect more than 100 foreign contacts he initially left off, including meetings with the ambassador and the head of a
major russian bank. the leaders of the judiciary committee sent letters to the white house in june and july of this year with questions about the status of mr. kushner's clearance. to this day, those questions have been ignored. nearly six months after we first ran through that checklist, we still have more questions than answers. my sincere hope remains we'll find those answers so we accomplish this subcommittee's primary purpose which is to help us learn how to protect the country from foreign political influence in our elections. today, we have an opportunity to learn more about how russia exploited social media as part of its disinformation campaign and to share some of those details with the public. i appreciate the cooperation of facebook and twitter and google in sending representatives here today. and in working with our staff over the last several weeks to voluntarily produce information. the intelligence community assessment reported that moscow's influence campaign
followed a russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations such as cyber activity with overt efforts by russian government agencies, state funded media, third party intermediaries and paid social media users or trolls. russian state backed networks rt and sputnik are an important disseminator of messages. social media troll armies like the one operated by the st. petersburg based internet research agency helped to amplify those messages, often posing as americans on facebook and twitter to launder russian propaganda messages and obscure their russian origin. according to ukrainian scholar, russian media, quote, implants propaganda narratives in the international media sphere and they do so with the imtentent o
having them picked up on social networks. traditional media will pick up a story foreign minist from social media and give it legitimacy. narratives can become part of the mainstream media sphere. how can western democracies interrupt this vicious cycle while respecting our commitment to to freedom of speech? greater disclosure about paid political advertising is a first step. our adversaries have additional tools. they're using our own social networks, our friendships, families and biases and viewpoints against us to achieve their political ends. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses about the ways we can work with the tech community to insure that we're prepared to confront russian disinformation in the future. again, i express my appreciation to our chairman, senator graham.
>> thank you, very much, mr. chairman. i very much appreciate your courtesy in permitting just regular members to be here and participate. it's very much appreciated. i had a briefing last week by outside technical experts. i saw really for the first time how effectively russia has harnessed the tremendous and quite, frankly, to me, frightening power of social media. they showed us how millions of americans are reached and how russia successfully used fake accounts to embed itself, to shape and manipulate opinion and actions. so it shouldn't be news to anyone that russia interfered in the election. what is really staggering and hard to fully comprehend is how easily and successfully they
turned modern technologies to their advantage. russia used covert cyber attacks to obtain and release information to impact the elections as well as propaganda campaigns that relied heavily on rt, formerly russia today. the state run television network. and the internet research agency, a group of professional trolls reportedly financed by a close putin ally with ties to russian intelligence. documents and information we have received from facebook, twitter, and google confirm this. just a few more facts. facebook has identified 470 accounts tied to the internet research agency. twitter has identified 2,752 ira related accounts and almost
37,000 russian linked accounts that generated automated election content. from what we've seen so far, russian backed trolls used fake accounts on facebook for more than 3,000 paid advertisements. and those ads sought to sow discord and amplify racial and social divisions among american voters. they exploited hot button topics such as immigration, gun rights, lgbt, and racial issues, to target both conservative and progressive audiences. so, mr. chairman, and ranking member, this is really a critical hearing because it's the first time we will have heard at least to my knowledge, from the three agencies about exactly what is going on and most importantly what they are
prepared to do to stop it. thank you very much. [ inaudible ] >> i want to thank you all for coming, you've been very helpful and very cooperative and we appreciate it. to my left, mr. collins is the general counsel for facebook. thank you very much for coming. mr. edgett acting general counsel for twitter. mr. richard delgatto from google. i'm sure you got these jobs because you're very good at what you do. >> chairman graham, ranking member whitehouse and distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.
my name is collin stretch, and since july 2013, i have as the general counsel of facebook. we appreciate your hard work, as you continue to seek more effective ways to combat crime, terrorism, and all other threats to our national security. we are deeply concerned about all of these threats. at facebook, we create innovative technology that gives people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. we're proud that over 2 billion people around the world come to facebook every month to share with friends and family, to learn about new products and services, to volunteer or donate to organizations they care about. and to help out in a crisis. being at the forefront of technology also means being at the forefront of new legal security and policy challenges. our teams come to work every day to confront these challenges head on. thousands of facebook employees around the world work to make facebook a place where both personal expression and personal
safety are protected and respected. i'm here today to address two important issues for our platform and others like it. the threat of extremist content and the efforts by foreign actors to interfere threat of e and the efforts by foreign actors to interfere with the 2016 election. keeping people safe on facebook is critical to our mission. and there is no place on facebook for terrorism or hate. we remove terrorists and posts that support terrorism as soon as we became aware of them. and in the rare cases when we uncover evidence of imminent harm, we promptly inform authorities. while there are challenges to fighting terrorism, we think technology and facebook can be part of the solution. we also believe we have an important role to play in the democratic process. and a responsibility to protect it on our platform. when it comes to the 2016
election, i want to be clear. we take what happened on facebook very seriously. the foreign interference we saw is reprehensible. that foreign actors hiding behind fake accounts abused our platform and other internet services to try to sow division and discord and to try to undermine the election is directly contrary to our values and goes against everything facebook stands for. we build tools to help people connect. and we recognize that facebook has become an important tool for political engagement and debate. our goal is to bring people closer together. these foreign actors sought to drive people apart. in our investigation, which continues to this day, we have found that foreign actors used fake accounts to place ads on facebook and instagram that reached millions of americans over a two-year period, and that those ads were used to promote pages, which in turn posted more
content. people shared these posts, spreading them still further. many of these ads imposed are inflammatory. some are downright offensive. and much of it will be particularly painful to communities that engaged with this content believing it to be authentic. they have every right to expect more from us. and we are determined to do better. in aggregate, these ads were a small fraction of the overall content on facebook. but any amount is too much. all of these accounts and pages violated our policies and we removed them. in going forward, we're making significant investments. we're hiring more ad reviewers, doubling our security engineering efforts, putting in place tighter ad content restrictions. launching new tools to improve ad transparency, and requiring more information from political ad-buyers. we're building artificial intelligence to help locate more
band content and bad actors. we are working more closely with industry to share information on how to identify and prevent threats so that we can all respond faster and more effectively. and we are expanding our efforts to work with law enforcement. we know bad actors aren't going to stop their efforts. we know we'll all have to keep learning and improving to stay ahead of them. that's why i want to thank you for this investigation. we look forward to the conclusions you will ultimately share with the american public, and i look forward to your questions. >> chairman graham, ranking member whitehouse, and members of the committee, twitter understands the importance of the committee's inquiry into extremist content and russian disinformation in the 2016 election. and we appreciate the opportunity to appear here today. the events underlying this hearing have been deeply concerning to our company and the broader twitter community. we are committed to providing a
service that fosters and facilitates free and open democratic debate and that promotes positive change in the world. we are troubled by reports that power of twitter was misused by a foreign actor for the purpose of influencing the u.s. presidential election and undermining public faith in the democratic process. the abuse of our platform to attempt state-sponsored manipulation of elections is a new challenge for us. and one that we are determined to meet. today we intend to show the committee how serious we are about addressing this new threat by explaining the work we are doing to understand what happened and to ensure it does not happen again. at the time of the 2016 election, we observe instances and acted on them of automated and malicious activity. as we learned more about the scope of the broader problem, we resolved to strengthen our systems going forward. elections continue all of the time. so our first priority was to do all we could to block and remove
malicious activity from interfering with our users' experience. we created dedicated teams within twitter to enhance the quality of the information our users see and to block malicious activity wherever and whenever we find it. those teams continue to work every day to ensure twitter remains a safe, open, transparent and positive platform. we have also launched a retrospective review to find russian efforts to influence the 2016 election through automation, coordinated activity and advertising. while that review is still under way, we have made the decision to share what we know today. in the interest of transparency, and out of appreciation for the urgency of this matter, we do so recognizing that our findings may be supplemented as we work with committee staff and other companies, discover more facts and gain a greater understanding of these events. my written testimony details the
methodology and current findings of the retrospective review in detail. we studied tweets. during that time, we did find automated and coordinated activity of interest. we determined that the number of accounts we could link to russia and that were tweeting election-related content was comparatively small. around 1/100th of a percent of the total twitter accounts at the time we studied. one-third of 1% of election-related tweets people saw came from russian-linked automated accounts. we did, however, observe instances where russian-linked activity was more pronounced, and we have uncovered more accounts linked to the russian-based internet research agency as a result of our review. we also determined that advertising by russia today and seven small accounts was related to the election and violated either the policies that existed at the time or that have since
been implemented. we have banned all of those users as advertisers, and we will donate that revenue to academic research into the use of twitter during elections and for civic engagement. we are making meaningful improvements based on our findings. last week, we announced industry-leading changes to our advertising policies that will help protect our platform from unwanted content. we are also enhancing our safety policies, sharpening our tools for stopping malicious activity and increasing transparency to promote public understanding of all of these areas. these improvements will further our efforts to fight both terrorist content and disinformation. we will continue confronting these challenges for as long as malicious actors seek to abuse our systems, and we will need to evolve to stay ahead of new tactics. we have heard the concerns about russian actors' use of twitter to disrupture the 2016 election and about our commitment to addressing this issue. twitter believes that any activity of that kind,
regardless of magnitude, is unacceptable. and we agree, we must do better to prevent it. we hope that our appearance today and the description of the work we have undertaken demonstrates our commitment to working with you, our industry partners and other stakeholders to ensure that the experience of 2016 never happens again. cooperation to combat this challenge is essential. as with most technology-based threats, the best approach is to combine information and ideas to increase our collective knowledge, working within the broader community, we will continue to test, to learn, to share and to improve so that our product remains effective and safe. i look forward to answering your questions. >> chairman graham, ranking member whitehouse, distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting us to participate in today's hearing. and for your leadership on these
challenging and important issues. my name is richard sal gado. as director of law enforcement at google, i work with thousands of people at google, tasked with protecting the security of our network and user data. previously i had the honor of serving at the department of justice, focusing on computer network crimes and other crimes such as hacking. google's services provide real benefits to our society. we recognize, however, that our services can be misused. state-sponsored attackers are particularly pernicious. they are well-resourced, they are sophisticated, they are patient, and often by design they are difficult to recognize. protecting our platforms from state-sponsored interference is a challenge we began tackling long before the 2016 presidential election. we've dedicated significant resources to help protect our
platforms from such attacks by maintaining cutting-edge defensive systems, and by building advanced security tools directly into our consumer products. we also have a range of tools to detect and prevent bad actors from engaging in artificially amplifying content on our platforms. youtube, for example, uses an array of signals to catch those who try to artificially inflate the view counts of their videos or the number of subscribers on their charges. with respect to the 2016 election, we have been working to understand whether individuals who appear to be connected to government-bacteria entities were disseminated information in the u.s. for the purpose ever interfering with the election. this was based on research conducted by alphabet's jigsaw group, the investigatory work of our information security teams, and on leads provided by other companies. our review included a broad review of all ads from june 15th until the election last november that were categorized as
potentially political by our systems, and had even the loosest connection to russia, such as a russian ip address, billing address or russian currency. we found two accounts that appeared to be engaged in activity associated with known or suspected government-backed entities. the two accounts spent roughly $4,700 in connection with the 2016 election. our investigation also focused on other platforms. an youtube, we found 18 channels with approximately 1,100 videos that were up loaded by individuals who we suspect are associated with this effort, and that contained political content. these videos mostly had low view counts, just 3% of them had more than 5,000 views. and constituted only around 43 hours of youtube content. while this is relatively small, people watch over 1 billion hours of youtube content a day, 400 hours of content are
uploaded every minute, we understand that any misuse of our platforms for this purpose can be very serious. the youtube videos were not targeted to any particular segment of the u.s. population, as that's not a feature available in youtube. but we did observe that links to these videos were frequently posted to other social media platforms. we believe that the relatively limited amount of activity we found is a result of the safeguards we had in place in advance of the election. google's products also don't lend themselves to the kind of targeting or viral dissemination these actors seem to prefer. but we are committed to continuing to improve our existing security measures to help prevent that kind of abuse. as part of our commitment, we are making our political advertising more transparent, easier for users to understand and even more secure. in 2018, we will release a transparency report for election ads, and pair that with a library of election and ad content that will be accessible
to researchers. going forward, users will be able to find the name of any advertiser running an election-related ad on search, youtube or google display network with one click on an icon above the ad. and we will be increasing the safeguards in place to ensure users are in compliance with our ad policies and laws covering election ads. on the topic of extremist content, we have developed rigorous policies and programs to make sure the use of our platforms to spread hate or incite violence more prohibited. we use a mixture of technology to enforce our guidelines and continue to invest in this approach. we are committed to doing our part, and recognize that we must work together across government, civil society and the private sector to address these complex issues at their root. we look forward to continuing to work with this committee as it takes on this important issue. thank you for your time, and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you. we'll do five-minute rounds and
obviously stay as long as necessary. so i'll start here. what nations do you worry about, other than russia interfering in our elections? anybody anybody comes to the top of your head there, mr. stretch? >> thank you, mr. chairman, for the question. we worry about nation state actors really from around the globe. starting in 2014, we stood up a threat intelligence team dedicated primarily to reviewing and monitoring four attacks from threat actors tied to nation states. that work mostly was directed at traditional cyber security. account come promise, surveillance. it's only recently we've seen this threat evolve into what we were talking about -- what i was
talking about in my testimony. dissemination of misinformation. in terms of specific countries, it really is a global threat that we think of it. and we would certainly be happy to come back to the committee and provide more details on specific actors. >> is that true for the rest of you? >> i think that's true for us, as well. we -- as we said in our written testimony, also see a disproportionate amount of spam or automated accounts coming out of russian. but our tools and technology are agnostic, obviously, to countries. >> could iran and north korea potentially do this? >> certainly potentially. the internet is borderless. >> okay. so let's talk about time period. you said you started picking up foreign interference two years ago, is that right, mr. stretch? >> we have been tracking threat
actors for several years, yes. >> before the 2016 election cycle? >> yes, that's correct. >> okay. did you find activity after the election? >> yes, we did. >> okay. what happened after the election? >> following the election, the activity we've seen really continued in the sense that if you viewed the activity as a whole, we saw this concerted effort to sow division and discord. in the wake of the election, and now president trump's election, we saw a lot of activity directed at fomenting discord about the validity of his election. >> so this continued after his election. >> it continued until we disabled the accounts. >> okay. is that -- what about you? >> yeah, we saw similar activity. on the advertising side what was interesting is we saw the
activity drop off after the election. but these automated accounts continue, and so we're continuing to focus on making sure that they're removed from our platform. >> mr. delgado? >> the same is true. limited use of platforms. decreased once we terminated accounts and we would expect that. >> did you see any activity in the primary, mr. stretch? >> the activity that we've now attributed to the internet research agency really started in 2015 and was ongoing through the primary, yes. >> were these ads pro clinton, anti clinton, or could you tell? or these activities. >> viewed in the aggregate, the activity, again, really appears to address a wide range of hot-button topics, and appears directed at fomenting discord and inflaming discourse.
>> in terms of volume, again, how much volume are we talking about? >> about -- approximately 90% of the volume we saw on the ad side appears to be issues-based. primarily a much, much smaller proportion were directed at particular candidates. >> but in terms of the actual facebook -- i think somebody said 1 in 23,000? i don't know. maybe that was another company. >> correct. so in terms of the total volume of material on the site, it's a very small percentage. we estimate that the internet research agency content was approximately 0.004% of the content in news feed during the time period in question. >> so to sum this up, and i'll come back with a jihadist in round two. russia, as a nation state, started interfering in the election cycle back in 2015.
and they continued after the election. during the election, they were trying to create discord between americans. most of it directed against clinton. after the election, you saw russian-tied groups and organizations trying to undermine president trump's legitimacy. is that what you saw on facebook? >> i would say that's an accurate statement. >> that's an accurate statement. >> i'm not sure i can characterize on our network which way the content went. >> thank you. >> thank you, chairman. so i take it that we can all agree that the russians did, in fact, interfere and meddle in the 2016 elections. your observations on that are consistent with what our intelligence community reports, is that correct? mr. stretch? >> that's correct, senator.
>> mr.aget? >> that's correct. >> mr. delgado? >> that's true. >> okay. and i gather that all of your companies have moved beyond any notion that your job is only to provide a platform, and whatever goes across it is not your affair. >> senator, i -- our commitment to addressing this problem is unwavering. we take this very seriously and are committed to investing as necessary to prevent this from happening again, absolutely. >> mr.agit? >> absolutely agree with mr. stretch, and this type of activity just creates not only a bad user experience, but distrust for the platforms who we are committed to working every single day to get better at solving this problem. >> mr. sar gado? >> that's the same for google. we take this very seriously. we've made changes, and we will continue to get better. >> and ultimately, you are american companies. and threats to american election security and threats to american peace and order are things that concern you greatly, correct? >> that is certainly correct. >> agree.
>> that's right. >> what i would like to do, and i don't have the time for it here, is to ask you all to answer a question for the record that i will ask now. which is, give us the key benchmarks of how you have improved at dealing with this problem in recent months or recent years. what your goalposts are ahead that you have not yet achieved, but you are slated or intend to achieve to deal with this problem. now, that's two. and three would be, what does success look like to you? what can you come to us and say, we have accomplished "x," and therefore you as a congress don't need to worry about legislating in this space or creating regulations or holding more hearings, because we have now got america's back. can you do that for me?
>> yes. >> you are all also corporations that i believe are headquartered and have significant operations in the state of california. california has a state law regarding disclosure. presumably, you comply with that state law with regard to customers in california. are there lessons and recommendations that you would have for us in evaluating the effectiveness of the california disclosure law? and given the short amount of time i have, i suppose we should -- give me just a very, very brief, do you follow that law, and a very brief response to it, and then we can flesh out in a question for the record how much of a model that might be for this committee to look at. >> so, senator, we comply certainly with all applicable law. in terms of disclosure going forward, we made an announcement last week that really drew on some of the ideas from the honest ads act, which senator
klobuchar had introduced. intended to bring ads' transparency really into the political realm, creating a repository of searchable ads, providing innovative ways to enable advertisers to meet their disclosure requirements. and requiring documentation and information so that we can ensure that advertisers are not running political ads on facebook, in violation of federal election law. >> so let me ask what will probably be my last question of this round, anyway. which is that you are all prepared, as i understand it, to undertake to make sure that you can trace content that goes across your platform that qualifies for concern in this area. back to a legitimate source. so you know if it's a russian
who is actually running it, so you know if it's an imaginary entity that's actually running it. how do you deal with the problem of a legitimate and lawful but phony american shell corporation. when the calls itself say americans for puppies and prosperity, has a dropbox as its address and a $50,000 million check in its bank book that it is using to spend to manipulate election outcomes. start with mr. agit this time. because we got mr. stretch last time. >> i think that's a problem. we're continuing to look into sort of how do you get to know your client. so we are also like mr. stretch said, proud of the work we've done around ads' transparency and the ads transparency center we're building and i think that kind of center allows the american citizen to be educated about who is running an ad, who is paying for the ad. what other ads they're putting
out into the boaworld and what they're targeting. and understand who the customers actually are. >> you admit if you trace it all the way back to an american corporation, let's call it americans for puppies and prosperity, and it's actually a shell corporation, you don't know who is behind it, it could be vladimir putin, it could be a big powerful american special interest. it could be the north koreans or the iranians. you need to be able to penetrate the obscurity of the shell corporation, correct? >>ing yeah, we're working on the best approach to getting to know the clients and getting to know who is behind the entities that are signing up for advertising. >> thank you. thanks, chairman. >> on our side, senator grassley, sas. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thanks to both of the senators for leading this discussion. and thanks to the companies for their cooperation. the press has reported that the russian government placed ads in
facebook that were largely aimed at influencing the election. so i want to highlight what i consider an inaccuracy in that reporting. the committee is reviewing the ads that facebook produced over all of the ads do not support a specific candidate, either republican or democrat. and about half of the ads my staff have reviewed were placed after the election. the large majority exploit controversial issues in our country, in an effort to further divide us as a country. for example, some ads target users in ferguson, baltimore, and cleveland. these ads spread stories about abuse of black americans by law enforcement. these ads are clearly intended to worsen racial tensions and possibly violence in those cities. it might be true that these ads were intended to influence the elections, but it's important to be clear that the nature of the ads. russia does not have loyalty to a political party in the united
states. their goal is to divide us and discredit our democracy. so a question for you, mr. stretch. the ads that facebook has produced are all about -- all from internet research agency. what is facebook doing to identify ads and contents placed by other bad actors? >> thank you, senator, for the question. we are focused broadly on addressing questions about the authenticity around the content placed on our platform. and the investments we're making around security and around transparency sweep across the entire platform. so, for example, the learning that we gained from the 2016 election and from our expansive investigation into it now informs the automated tools that we use to detect and remove fake accounts from anywhere. >> okay. has facebook produced all the ads and contents it has located
from russian sources that were placed prior to the election, and if facebook has not, will facebook focus on producing those ads? >> yes, senator. we have identified everything. we have produced everything that we have identified that is the product of what we call coordinated inauthentic activity from facebook, and we are continuing to investigate, and we commit to keep the committee up to date on any further progress in our investigation. >> and so that would include all ads -- all ads placed from russian sources. >> all ads from russian sources that -- >> as well as others. >> that are inauthentic and directed at these political issues. there are, of course, many advertisements, cross-border, for legitimate purposes, that we have not produced. >> overall, facebook identified more than 3,000 ad purchases worth $100,000 during the 2016 election that had links to
russia. russian agents posted messages that reached 126 million users. the ads, accounts and posts that facebook found attempted to amplify divisive political issues across the political spectrum. twitter identified around 200 accounts linked to russian groups. identified by facebook. today, or rt, as it's sometimes called, spent approximately 274,000 targeting u.s. markets. 2016 russian agents published more than 131,000 messages on twitter. google found tens of thousands of ads by russian accounts that use youtube or google. russian agents uploaded about 1,000 videos on youtube. so questions to each of you and a short answer on these two questions i'm going to put together. to each company, starting with mr. stretch, have you completed internal investigations to
identify all accounts, advertisements and posts with connections to russia that purchase ads in the lead up to the 2016 election? and if not, what is the time line for completion? >> senator, as i stated in my testimony, the investigation continues. and we expect to keep the committee up to date on any further discoveries. >> okay. >> the same goes for twitter. we are continuing to work with your staff on both -- our relevant period was september 1st and november 15th. we're working with our staff on other investigations you would like to see. >> and for google, the answer is similar. as our investigation continues, we'll keep the committee up to date. >> okay. and then one that i would like to have you write and give me answers in writing, could you provide appen update on what yo internal investigations have found. please be specific with regard to the n to the number of accounts and
total number of advertisements. my time is up, mr. chair. >> senator feinstein? >> thanks, mr. chairman. mr. stretch, we know that russian operatives built misleading pages, like black matters u.s. and united muslims of america to attract facebook users. they then exploited a powerful facebook tool, called custom audiences, to track down those users and send them targeted messages. can you explain who was targeted using facebook's custom audiences tool? >> thank you for the question, senator. as a threshold matter, you're correct that much of the content we have seen is essentially imitative of social causes, very meaningful ones, to many members
of the community, in the facebook community. and it's what makes i think this content so vile, so upsetting, so cynical. its attempt to exploit divisions in our society. in terms of the advertising tools that were used to promote these pages that were masquerading eventually, the advertising targeting that was used in the main was a combination of very broad geographic targeting. most of the ads, about 75% of we have given you, was targeted to the united states as a whole. and a quarter of the ads were targeted at a more granular level to states. and they were targeted to interest groups. so we have various what we call like-based or interest-based targeting that was apparently intended to attract people who were following the causes you've identified. >> right. >> to subscribe to those pages.
>> thank you. and what have you done with the tools since? >> thank you for the question. it's an important one for us. because we do believe these tools are powerful, and yet we have a responsibility to make sure they're not used to inflame division. so what we're doing is making a number of changes to our ad targeting policies. we're tightening the restrictions on hate speech and ads generally. we're adding additional layers of review, where people use potentially sensitive categories for targeting. and we're also limiting the ad content permissions, so that where are -- where ads are directed at potentially divisive issues, we're trying to tighten our standards to make sure that they're not targeting individuals or communities. >> thank you. i appreciate that. mr. salgado, why did google get preferred status to russia
today, a russian propaganda arm, on youtube? >> there was a period of time where russia today qualified really because of algorithms, to participate in an advertising program that opened up some inventory for them. subjective standards around popularity and some other criteria to be able to participate in that program. platforms or publishers like rt drop in and out of the program as things change, and that is the case with rt. they dropped out of the program. >> well, why didn't you revert rt's preferred status after the ica came out in january 2017? it took you until september of 2017 to do it. >> the removal of rt from the program was actually a result of -- as i understand it, is a result of some of the drop in viewership, not as a result of
any action otherwise. so there was -- there was nothing about rt or its content that meant that it stayed in or stayed out. >> okay. a quick one for twitter. twitter produced images from tweets that contained false voting information. example, telling voters they could vote by sending a text message. all targeting likely clinton voters. just before the election. twitter initially responded to complaints, saying twitter had, quote, determined that it was not in violation of our rules. twitter has said there was no obvious russian origin. the posts were removed, only after twitter's ceo was directly notified by a twitter user. that's the facts, as i understand them. why was this false content allowed to remain in place? >> my understanding is, once we had user reports of the content, we began to remove it as illegal
voter suppression. and the interesting thing about the text to vote tweets that we shared with your staff was, there was a small amount of tweets relative to the size of the platform, but impressions of tweets calling out those things as fake were eight times as large. we had ten times the amount of retweets. >> could you say that again? impressions -- i don't quite understand. >> thank you. great question. and so worry all on the same page. impressions is a metric we use to determine whether or not a tweet has been in view on our product. so potentially seen by a user. but the interesting thing about the text to vote tweets were that we saw a complete counter narrative around them. the twitter community coming together and seizing on them to let everyone know that they were fake. but twitter did remove them from the platform. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman, i'd like to ask some questions to get at metrics. so can we start with you, mr. edgette? for twitter, can you walk us
through how many accounts there are, how many users there are, how many are anonymous, how many are fake, as a subset of both anonymous and purportedly real? >> so we have 330 millionly acti monthly active users. we track things internally like -- daily active users also look at things like impressions. we estimate that less than 5% of twitter users are potentially false accounts, or spam or automated. >> less than 5%? >> less than 5% overall. >> and can you distinguish between fake and automated? because wouldn't there be accounts that real people would run, but you can imagine for business cycle purposes, you have accounts that are automated but aren't fake. >> great. thank you for letting me extinguish that. we look at whether it looks like
there is a human behind it or not. we can't calculate whether someone is pretending to be someone they're not. we have an anonymous policy that allows you to come on and create your own name. it doesn't have to be the one you have. so in that instance, we can't track those metrics. >> and if you break down in political twitter, it sure looks like there are a whole bunch of people that have 5,000 -- they're following 5,000, and they've got 5,000 -- they're following 5,000, and they have 5,000 followers and looks like many of these accounts that are this sort of most laughably fake are self-referential. that they're retweeting back and forth at each other. do you have some way of quantifying which impressions are likely inside the universe of the 95% that you think are real users and is that how you prioritize, trying to figure out where the big problems are? >> we prioritize -- we obviously prioritize automated activity. we saw that in written testimony. it's a way for malicious actors it get their voice out.
so the instance that you would discussed, where it looks like there is just a lot of retweeting among a circle of followers, some of that can be positive and natural if you have a number of friends you're following and all interested in the same thing. some of it can be malicious and automated. our tools are getting better each day to determine what is malicious, what is automated, what's actually not real. we're able to see the distinction between how a real human tweets versus how a robot tweets. so we're working on redoubling our efforts on that regard. >> and i want to go to facebook quickly, too. but it would seem to me there is a pretty big distinction between objectively verifiable fake things. the text to vote or fake voter information or voter location or voter hours. and things that are narrative-based. competing world views and different interpretations of how facts fit and actual good versus evil and merely political versions that are the subset of those debates. how do you rank order what you should focus on, and what's the
human capital that you have doing this? so russia and china and potentially north korea, iranian examples are sort of straight forward in the context of the way we have been dating in the u.s. election. but in the context of potentially jihadi accounts, there's a whole range of interpretation about people who have a religion and people think that's a threshold and that a certain theology requires of them. who are your people who do this work? >> so we prioritize safety and abuse. it's the number one priority of the company. and earlier this year, we actually repivoted all of our engineering product and design teams to solve this problem set. so that's our number one priority. as a subset, automated accounts being used by malicious actors to sort of amplify their voice. we have hundreds and in the sbri interims, sometimes thousandses. we are a company of 3,800 employees so over half are
focus focused on this problem throughout our life cycle. >> so understanding the intricacies of theology -- who are your content experts. how could you hire for that? >> we have a very respected trust and safety team who has to research these issues around the world. we're a global platform being used everywhere, except for a few places. so we have teams that are researching these issues and trying to distinguish what you're talking with. violate groups and groups that may have some connection but have more political arms. we have seen many interested in that. we have to understand how these groups are acting and coordinatingality times. but there are teams that research and study these issues and relationship us refine and implement new policies around them. >> thank you. mr. stretch, i'll save some metrics questions for you after the hearing. can you tell us a little bit about facebook's human capital solution to the same problem? >> yes, thank you. thank you, senator, for the
question. so today, across our safety, security and product and community operations teams, we have about 10,000 people. and we're committing to inveting more and doubling that number by the end of 2018. on the question of extremist content generally, i think you raise a really important point. which is that we need to understand the behavior, and we need to have the capacity both as a company and as an industry to be able to track it and eradicate it. so we have thousands of people who as part of their job on a regular basis are attempting to keep terrorism off of facebook. we have 150 people who do nothing else. that's their job. and across that 150 people, they have, as mr. edgette suggested, in our case as well, significant expertise in understanding jihadi threats. they have cover about 37
separate languages. one of the things each of us has done as a company is work together to make sure that the industry is sharing thread information and sharing expertise and also providing that information to other smaller companies that may not have the same level of resources. we all agree, not just that terrorism doesn't have a place on facebook. terrorism has no place on the internet. and we're trying to lead the industry to make sure that rowee all doing our part to address that threat. and the last point i'll make, it also requires an ongoing dialogue with law enforcement, with the government. because there is a great wealth of information, and the government, as it tracks these issues that they can share with us. and that in turn gives me some optimism as we address the question of foreign interference in the election. we know how to work together to address a threat on the internet. but as an industry and working with government. and i think if we bring that same concerted behavior to bear accident, look at this threat of interference in the election, we'll make some progress.
>> thanks. i'll follow up with you more with your team, as well. thanks. mr. stretch, last night 19 major civil rights organizations sent a letter to facebook, which explained their quote hateful ads and platform, and in particular to promote anti muslim, anti black, anti immigrant, anti lgbtq animus. the organizations referenced a number of examples reported by the media, including a russian facebook account that, quote, not only promoted anti i am grant messaging online, but also managed to organ in-person ral league on august of 2016. it also detailed a situation in i think so quote, facebook offered its expertise by creating a case study testing different video formats and advising how to reach the anti
refugee campaign and swing states during the 2016 election. what is your response to this letter? is it true that facebook enlisted an anti muslim effort? >> thank you, senator, for the question. so let me start by saying that the content we have browsed to this committee and that was run by these fake accounts masquerading as real authentic identiti identities vile. it's particularly exploitive insofar as it was directed at groups that have every reason to expect us to protect the authenticity of debate on facebook. in terms of what we're doing in response, we are reviewing and tightening our ad policies, and there's two particular changes that we're making. one is, we are -- we are
tightening our content guidelines as they apply to ads with respect to violence. so much of the content that is so disturbing is -- involves threats of violence towards communities and that has no place on facebook and certainly has no place -- >> regardless of source? >> regardless -- yes, regardless of source. regardless of source. exactly. we want our ad tools to be used for political discourse, certainly. but we do not want our ad tools to be used to inflame and divide. >> that's the point i'm trying to get to. i read that set of facts to you. the trigger word was a russian facebook account. at which point most of us would say hold the phone. what is russia doing promoting anti immigrant, anti refugee sentiment in the united states? now take the word russian out of it. a facebook account that promotes
anti immigrant, image in the united states. i don't know if you would characterize that as vile. i sure would. these groups would. when we start with the word russian, fake, trolls, so forth, we know the starting point is a trigger. something needs to be done. the second thing is if it includes a reference to a political candidate or a party. then it's a category, too, of election earring. and then the third question gets into what you characterized in this case as vile content. how are you going to sort this out, consistent with the basic values of this country when it comes to freedom of expression? >> it's a great question. i don't suggest it's easy. we do value personal expression, and when that is the purpose of your service, there is going to be content that is
objectionable, even beyond objectionable. where we're really trying to draw the line is with respect to advertising content and using our tools to promote messages -- >> these are all ads. i'm going to stipulate that at the beginning. they're all ads. >> yes. >> they are being purchased to affect an outcome of an election or voter sentiment or to mislead voters. i would like to ask your colleagues to address this, as well. mr. edgette, what did twitter say to that question? >> those outside have no answer to twitter. and our ads actually address those things. if there is inflammatory content that some even would find to be upsetting, that's not the type of ad we want running on twitter. we distinguish between organic tweets, those that you or i or anyone here today can tweet from their phone or computer. from advertising.
advertising tweets serving to someone who hasn't asked to follow the content, hasn't asked to be part of the conversation, so we draw a hard line on making sure advertisements are not inflammatory. >> i certainly commend you and endorse that, but agree with senator sas, that when it comes to drawing those lines, it's a challenge for us and we do it for a living. and i think it will be a challenge for you, as well. mr. salgado, would you like to comment? >> we have policies to keep our ads and high-quality. and the proposals we've made and we'll be implementing around election ad transparency i think reflect that, as well. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator kennedy. >> gentlemen, i'm very proud that the three companies you're representing here today are american companies. and i think you do enormous
good. but your positivwer sometimes s me. mr. stretch, how many advertisers does facebook have? >> we have approximately 5 million advertisers on a monthly basis, senator. >> did china run ads in the last election cycle? that tried to impact our election? >> not that i'm aware of, senator. >> not that you're aware of. did turk minute stan? >> no, senator. not that i'm aware of. >> how about north korea? >> i'm not aware of other foreign actors running -- >> how could you be aware? i mean, this is -- this -- you've got 5 million advertisers? and you're going to tell me that
you're able to trace the origin of all of those advertisements? if i want to hire a lawyer, if i wanted to hire you when you were in private practice, you have an incredible resume, and say, let's go through about four shell corporations. i want to go through four or five shell corporations, because i want to hide my identity. you're telling me you have the ability to go -- to trace through all of these corporations and find the true identity of every one of your advertisers. you're not telling me that, are you? >> senator, the commitment we are making -- >> no, sir, i'm just asking about your ability. not commitment. can you do it today? >> we're not able to see beyond the activity we see on the platform. the technical signals that we get from an account. now, we do think that the technical signals we see can be used to help us identify inauthentic behavior. >> the truth of the matter is --
i'm trying to get us down from la la land here. the truth of the matter is, you have 5 million advertisers that change every month. every minute. probably every second. you don't have the ability to know who every one of those advertisers is, do you? today. right now. not your commitment. i'm asking about your ability. >> to your question about seeing essentially behind the platform to understand if there are shell corporations, of course the answer is no. we cannot see behind the activity. >> let me ask you something else. if i came to you -- i don't mean just to pick on you. but i don't have enough time to do all three of you, so you two gentlemen get to skate. if i came to you and said, look, i want to buy an ad that everybody sees on facebook. that's going to be cost-prohibitive. can we agree on that? >> that's likely the case,
senator, yes. >> yes. so i've got to narrow it down. and you can help me narrow down. because that's your business model. you collect data, and lease it out to companies who use that data to sell people products, services and candidates. isn't that basically your business model? >> senator, we do provide targeted advertising. we don't actually share the data of individuals with advertisers. >> right. do you have a profile on me? >> senator, if you're a facebook user, we would permit you to be targeted with an advertisement based on your characteristics and your likes, along with other people who share similar characteristics. >> let's suppose your ceo came to you -- not you, but somebody who could do it in your company. maybe you could. and said, "i want to know everything we can find out about senator graham. i want to know the movies he likes, i want to know the bars
he goes to. i want to know who his friends are. i want to know what schools he goes -- went to." you could do that, couldn't you? [ inaudible ] [ laughter ] >> so -- and i want to be -- it is a very good question. >> you can do that, though, can't you? >> the answer is absolutely not. we have limitations in place on our ability to -- >> no, no, i'm not asking about your rules. i'm saying you have the ability to do that. don't you? >> again, senator. the answer is no. we're not -- >> you can't put a name to a face to a piece of data? you're telling me that? >> so we have designed our systems to prevent exactly that, to protect the privacy of our users. >> i understand. but you can get around that to find that identity, can't you? >> no, senator. i cannot. >> that's your testimony under oath. >> yes, it is. >> okay. so i'm about out of time. i'm going take one more minute.
or one more 30 seconds. are you a media -- let me ask google this, to be fair. are you a media company, or a neutral technology platform? >> we're the technology platform, primarily. >> that's what i thought you would say. you don't think you're one of the largest -- the largest newspaper in 92 countries? >> we are not a newspaper. we are a platform for sharing of information that can include news from sources such as newspapers. >> isn't that what newspapers do? >> this is a platform from which news can be read from news sources. >> i'm way over. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator klobuchar. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i'm not going to ask what bar you go to. don't be concerned. and thank you to both of you for this important hearing. so i come at this just with this simple idea that our democracy was formed to be self-governing, and that means we don't want
foreign entities influencing decisions that our citizens make. and they have a right -- a right of freedom to make their own decisions, and i think that was interfered with by influence -- by russians and also by others. when there's no rules in place to tell us where these ads -- paid ads, are coming from. and so i do appreciate the efforts from these companies, but i just -- i don't think it's enough. we're going to have a patchwork of ads from different companies. some won't be doing any. some will be doing one thing, another will be doing another. we won't have actual enforcement. management can change, and decisions change. and that's why i think it's very important we have the same rules of the road for these issue ads, as well as candidate ads that we have for tv, radio and print. it's that simple. and that is the bell that senator warner and i have, and that senator mccain that is our
co sponsor, and we're very pleased with that, and he looks at this as a national security issue. so my first question is simply, will you support our bill. mr. stretch. >> thank you, senator, for the question. so first, we're not waiting for legislation. as i explained earlier -- >> but if you could just answer that, if you will support our bill, and if not, why not? >> well, we have drawn on much of what's in the bill to inform our announcement on friday related to ads' transparency and disclosure obligations. and we stand ready to work with you and your co sponsors on that legislation going forward. >> mr. edgette? from twitter? >> the same goes for twitter. >> yeah, we certainly support the goals of the legislation, and would like to work through the nuances to make it work for all of us. >> okay. because just to clarify, while you are taking responsibility for a lot of what's happened
here, and trying to make some changes, there wouldn't be an outside enforcer of any of your policies, right? it would just be you. is that true? not you personally, but your companies. okay. can someone answer? >> that's correct. >> okay. and also, no one has said yet that they will include issue ads, right? and that is what we've just heard from mr. stretch 90% of the russian-paid political ads were issue ads. and as you know, somehow the radio station in thief river falls, minnesota, is able to figure out what an issue ad is under the federal guidelines. and i would just hope that your companies could do that, because the way our election system works is that campaigns are able to see each other's ads, and also the journalists and the public are able to see the ads. so that has been a stumbling block so far. and so is this a problem that you're not going to be able to figure out those rules, like tv
broadcast and radio? and i'm just trying to understand that. >> so as we announced this week, issue ads are sort of a 2.0 or next version for us and something we're thinking hard about how to operationalize and what rules to put around it. and to determine what is an issue ad on a platform like ours versus an ad unrelated to an election. so we're thinking hard about that. we don't have anything to announce today, but we're hoping to announce something soon. >> okay. mr. stretch? anyone want to add anything on that? i just want to -- we have had clarification on this. it's fcc clarification encompasses political issues that are the subject of continuing controversy or discussion at the national level, national debt, defense. we just haven't -- people see ads all of the time on energy. they see ads on immigration policy. on all kinds of things. and they're able to just simply -- we see disclaimers of who is paying for them, and we know where they're running. and that's what we're trying to get at here. because as brilliant as your
companies are, and they are incredibly brilliant, and they have employed so many people, we happen to believe that if you make these things public, which is the goals of your companies, is to share information, you're going to have other sets of eyes that are able to look to look at those ads. so i want you to look at it from that perspective. i had one question, mr. stretch, and that is you appreciated that you guys put out there that the 126 million people had access to those russian ads. were those originally paid ads and then they got shared and liked and went through the system, how did that work? >> thank you, senator. there's really two categories of content. there were ads about 3,000 of them, that appeared -- >> the paid for by roubles ad? >> many of them were paid for by roubles. >> were there other ads paid for by the russians? >> i believe the content is what we refer to as organic content.
the ads were used to essentially drive followership of pages, and pages post unpaid content that people who have followed the page are eligible to see. and the 126 million number refers to the latter, refers to the unpaid or organic posts over the approximately two-year period. >> last question, because we need to move on. isn't it often the case that candidates get organic looking ad, it doesn't have a disclaimer on it, and they pay. so they're doing a paid ad on tv, you know it's a paid ad but not on your platform. >> it's a great question, senator. everything that boosted or promoted in that way is designated as sponsored today. that's the case. so it would have shown up as sponsored if it was paid, regardless of whether it related to an issue.
what we're doing would capture that in the sense that we are creating a transparency mechanism. you go to the page and you can see every single ad that's running. >> right now you're just doing candidate ads, 90% of the ads are russian. >> with respect to what a user can see if they navigate to the page, they would see all of them, every single ad from every advertiser. so it does sweep much more broadly than that. and we are focused on making sure in the plitle olitical spa there are disclosure obligations from the advertiser that relate to issue ads as you described, we're going to enable that. so the innovative ways that we were working on will cover that category. >> we'll revisit this in the second round. thank you. >> thank you.
thanks for holding the hearing. thank you for your testimony. i'm sorry if i'm plowing a little ground here. with regard to threat detection, just to find out what's out there, i believe facebook, you have algorithms that do the first run and humans that it kicks to a set of humans to look at it. i understand that you've increased the number of humans that look at these things. can you explain the process that you have? >> thank you, senator. it is certainly true that ensuring the security of the site, we rely on systems and people. we have invested and we are investing heavily on both fronts. with respect to the sort of what i'll call the particularized threat actors that are typically associated with nation states, that's a highly manual process,
so we'll have a threat indicator that we're tracking, and if we see activity, that's really a highly intensive manual effort to police and try to understand the activity and fan out from there. the systems are quite effective at identifying more, call it run of the mind abusive behavior. fake accounts springing up quickly with the purpose of spreading spam can be recognized by our systems readily and disabled without that human intervention. >> what's twitter's policy there, how does that different? >> we're very focused on the behavior of the account. a lot of the signals we can see behind the public facing plat tomorrow. so we look at activity like mr. stretch said that looks very
apparent, not very apparent of what a person would be doing, signing up for a lot of accounts within seconds. that's where we can identify a lot of this automated activity and take it off our platform. >> the same is true. the desire is to move as much of this as we can, because of the scale we operate at to machine learning. over time, it gets smarter. we educate the automated portion of the process. but we always have human review on the other side of it to handle the issues that are novel or where there's some gray area. >> obviously, you have undertaken these means without all three of you, without the government telling you that you have to do it. is there this model that says let's take care of it, is it in your economic interest to take care of this, starting with
facebook? >> senator, we believe authenticity is a corner stone of what we do and preventing the platform from being abused for abuse is our responsibility and we're committed to meeting that responsibility. >> twiter? >> absolutely the same with twitter. we believe we shouldn't have malicious actors. we want to be known as a platform for promoting debate and discussion and having interferences of automated accounts is not something that we wanted on twitter. >> the philosophy for google is that if it warrants an ethical imperative, it's certainly a business imperative. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman and i would like to thank our three witnesses for joining us today. i think what you've presented today is truly troubling evidence of the scope and reach of russia's interference in our
last election. and the ways in which americans who typically expect to know when they're consuming a political advertisement were misled. and what are very troubling, slow, halting steps by your otherwise compelling and innovative companies, to come forward and to work with us and to help us understand the scope and consequence of this. mr. stretch, let me start, if i could, with a political ad from facebook. this is an ad run on facebook in may of 2016. a key moment in the primary campaigns of both hillary clinton and donald trump. when both were closing in on the nomination. this was paid for by russians in roubles. the ad claims that hillary clinton is "only one politician
except barack obama, who is despised by the overwhelming majority of american veterans, and if clinton were elected president, the armies should be withdrawn from her control." this ad is nothing short of the russian government directly interfering in our elections, lying to american citizens, duping folks who believe they are joining and supporting a group that is about veterans and based in texas, when it's paid for in roubles by russians. should facebook be a platform to run political ads by foreign adversaries, sir? >> senator, that ad has no place on facebook, and we are committed to preventing that sort of behavior from occurring again on our platform. it's something we take incredibly seriously. i think you're right to surface
it. it's upsetting. it makes me and everybody that works at the company angry. when i say we're doubling our teams to address safety and security on facebook, that's what i'm talking about. >> let me show you another example. there's been a lot of ateventen on ads. but russians also used facebook to make up and promote political events. a group called being patriotic, shared their event, a miner's for trump rally to users in pennsylvania. but again, this event was a fraud. organized and supported by russia. russians trying to influence our elections duped americans in pennsylvania into coming to an event that was nothing but a fake. help me understand, if i might, mr. stretch. you said these things are vile
and upsetting and cynical and you take responsibility for changing. yet i'm concerned that we are now nearly a year after the election, ten months a of the election, september 6, facebook acknowledged $100,000 ads were bought by a russian company linked to the kremlin amounting to 3,000 ads. but if i understand your testimony here today, 80,000 posts by the russian linked ad may have reached an estimated 126 million people. why has it taken facebook 11 months to come forward and help us understand the scope of this problem, see it clearly for the problem it is, and begin to work in a responsible way to address it when former president obama cautioned your ceo literally nine days after the election last november, that this was a big problem and facebook needed
to come forward? >> thank you, senator. i appreciate the question. one clarification. when president obama and mr. zuckerberg met and spoke, they were speaking about fake news generally, there was no discussion of foreign interference. but your larger points around our efforts to investigate and understand what we now see as a sophisticated and systemic effort to interfere in the election is one i do want to address. we published a white paper in april of 2017, that detailed our findings to that point. when the office of the director of national intelligence issued his assessment in january, we weren't sitting around. our threat intelligence team had been looking at what we could learn from the 2016 election, and on the basis of that assessment, which we saw in january, started looking hard at the question of disinformation on facebook.
and identified a number of practices that we thought would be helpful for the industry to be aware and the public to be aware. so we publicly issued that white paper in april. as you roll the clock forward, and we continued our investigation, we did further analysis and we did then discover the ads associated with the internet research agency, and we brought those advertisements and our learnings to congress. we issued a public blog post, telling the public what we found, and we committed to continuing our investigation and continuing to commit to share what we learned with congress. and i would like to make one additional point if i may. on that content that you exhibited, it reflects the sophistication of what we're dealing with. this is not just an online attack.
this attack affects multiple companies, multiple platforms and it's paired to offline activity. this is a national security issue, and one that we are taking seriously. i know my colleagues are taking seriously, and we need to understand the scope of the threat, and we need to continue to work with law enforcement to make sure we're sharing information and expertise to really address this thoroughly. >> i appreciate your response to my questions, and i'm grateful for today's hearing, and putting forward legislation to tackle this challenge. but i wish we had the executives of your three companies before us today, and i hook forward to hearing in more concrete ways the steps your organizations are taking to address these very real threats to our democracy. thank you. >> i think there are two votes, one just started, so we're going to keep marching on here and just take turns voting. senator cruz?
>> thank you, mr. chairman. i recognize that a lot of folks in the media are -- and even some members of this committee, are praising your companies for taking active steps to police some of the content on your sites. but i have to note that doing so raises troublesome concerns at the same time. particularly given the percentage of news and political information that americans received online through social media or through other online avenues, the prospect of silicon valley companies activity censoring the speech or the news
content is troubling to anyone who cares about a democratic process with a robust first amendment. take one example, which is google. in 2015, a study was conducted analyzing google search results. he searched for the names of all 16 pl yresidential candidates a the time, and discovered that democrats had seven favorable search results, and republican candidates hat 5.9 positive articles. hillary clinton had five positive search results and one negative, donald trump had four positive and three negative results on the first page. bernie sanders had nine positive results without a single
negative result and a final candidate the junior senator from texas had a total of zero positive results on the first page. you may well have been citing my colleague from minnesota on that page. >> that is outrageous. [ laughter ] >> i will note -- i will say if there were a franken filter, that might be popular. that same professor ran a second study, and found the vast majority of news outlets that were represented in google searches were left leaning. 2016 revealed that facebook was cure rating the list of trending news stories on their website. according to reports, facebook workers were artificially spiking conservative stories, including stories about former
irs official lowis lerner, former s.e.a.l. chris kyle and positive stories about conservative politicians. it revealed that stories by conservative outlets that were popular enough to be picked up by facebook's trending stories algorhithm, were nonetheless excluded until "new york times" and cnn began covering the same stories. last month, twitter barred marsha blackburn from advertising her campaign launch video because it deemed a line about her efforts to investigate planned parenthood to be inflammato inflammatory. the susan b. anthony list had an ad against a political candidate blocked on twitter because it referred to partial birth abortion as been akin to infanticide. now, that -- those are all
political positions that people can take, but it is disconcerting if those political positions become a lens through which the american consumers consume news. so i want to ask each of you, have you considered your sites to be neutral public fora? >> senator, we think of facebook as a platform for all ideas, and we have boundaries in the sense that we don't permit hate speech and certain categories, but within those guidelines, we do not discriminate on the basis of viewpoint and ideology. >> is that a yes or no what you consider yourself to be a
neutral public forum? >> we don't use -- we don't think of it in the terms of neutral, because what we're trying to do is provide each user a personalized news feed that will be the content that's most interesting to that user. but we do think of ourselves as, again, within the boundaries that i described, open to all ideas without regard to viewpoint or ideology. >> same question. >> free expression and free speech is at the core of the twitter mission. and we do everything we can to enable that. obviously balances things against violence, violent threats or abuse and harassment. we believe that allowing the public an open platform is one that is important to debate. >> mr. chairman, i'm at the end of my time, but a final question. how do you respond -- >> i'm not going to object, but i would note that chairman,
we're the only two that have sat through all of this today, and i would like to have a chance to ask a question -- >> you will. >> of course, i'll let senator cruz question. >> how do both of you respond to the public concerns and growing concerns that your respective company and other silicon valley companies are putting a thumb on the scale of political debate and shifting it in ways consistent with the political views of your employees? >> senator, again, we think of ourselves as a platform for all ideas and we aspire to that. we are acutely aware of the possibility of unconscienous bi on a range of issues and we want to make sure that people's own biases are not brought to bear in how we manage the platform. >> similar for twitter. we are spending a lot of time
training employees who are looking at user reports on organic tweets. we have stricter policies around advertisements, where since we are serving those ads to folks who aren't following the accounts and haven't asked to see the content, we want to make sure it's always a positive experience. but we're learning from mistakes and revising policies and procedures going forward. but our goal and one of the fundamental principles is to remain impartial. >> thank you. >> chairman, like i said, you and i are the only two that have sat through all of this. i must admit that i'm -- with all due respect following your companies, i hear a lot of johnny-come-latelies. that'sis there's a lot that you could have done earlier. i suspect that your advertising
department has watched the profits go up, and i wish it spent some of those profits earlier looking at what the content was. i do note, and we have to be careful not to be sensors, but i'll start with you, mr. stretch. we know that an estimated 126 million people were exposed to misinformation posted by russia's internet research agency on facebook. the vast majority was free russian propaganda that spread like wildfire. now, let me show you, these strongly resemble pages you've already linked to russia. at a minimum, these pages are
inflammatory. when i mentioned johnny-come-lately, these were on today, today. and it's a problem. can you tell me that none of these pages were created by russia linked organizations? it's very similar. and some we've seen before. >> senator, i can tell you with certainly that none of them are linked to the accounts that we identified as coordinated inauthentic activity, because we removed all those accounts from our site -- >> pretty similar to some of them. >> the core problem with the accounts we identified was a lack of authenticity. so it wasn't so much the content, although to be clear, much of that content is
offensive and has no place on facebook. but the real problem with what we saw was its lack of authenticity. the fact that it came from fake accounts massacquerading as authentic individuals on facebook. we have to look at that content to understand if it suffered -- or if the accounts associated -- >> let me ask you, we have in virginia, a governor's race and one candidate is running on a pledge to protect confederate statues. in alabama, a candidate said muslims should not be allowed to serve in congress and called being gay detestable. these seem like the kind of things that could be exploited just as the russians did with the 2016 presidential election. any indication the russians are
doing that now on these two races? >> senator, we have not seen evidence of that in connection with those two races. i will say that -- >> are they looking for it? >> absolutely. we are focused on addressing this behavior going forward, not just in connection with those two races, but throughout the country and indeed around the world, each time there's an election, we face a challenge and a responsibility to ensure that the platform is not used for abuse, and we're investing heavily to make sure we meet that challenge. >> let me ask about that. facebook's growing in the developing world. now, there divisive information can be downloaded. for example, facebook is being
used today as a breeding ground for hate speech against ronald hin -- rohingya, refugees in myanmar. the leadership of that country is not doing a darn thing, that includes a nobel peace prize recipient, not doing a darn thing to stop this. in cambodia, the government is exploiting social media to smear dissidents. what are you doing -- you're increasingly monetizing information from users in the developing world, and you have a right to do that. but what are you doing to make sure it's not used to undermine democracies, especially in the undermining is not losing votes, it's losing lives?
>> senator, thank you for the question. it's really an excellent point and a very challenging topic for anyone who has followed the news is aware of the tragedy unfolding in myanmar is horrifying. we view our platform in that sense as a -- as a vehicle for providing greater visibility into what's going on around the world and greater visibility into human rights abuses. now, we do have an obligation to make sure that it is not misused. >> we're talking about lives. >> senator -- >> and i gave the example in cam go bodia -- cambodia. >> we have teams working with organizations to understand the particular challenges associated with operating in those regions and to make sure we get it right. we do believe we have a role to
play in raising visibility but not be used as a tool to foment hatred or glory violence in any way. >> you can understand my concern. russia's internet research agency on a fake twitter account sent out a stream of fake claims, including allegations of voter fraud. people knew it was, and yet it was retweeted by kellyanne conway, donald trump, jr., even president trump last month, even though everybody knows it was fake. this is what happens. it is frustrating. i don't say that as a democrat, i say that as an american, one that has visited countries around the world, trying to protect the right to vote. and then we see russians coming here. speaking of voting, i will now go and vote.
but please understand, you have -- i admire what you've been able to do in reaching people. but you have a great responsibili responsibility. not only can elections be swayed this way by people who don't -- are not favorable to the united states, but people could die. so thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. blumenthal. >> thank you. thank you to our chair people, chairman graham and chairman whitehouse for hold thing hearing. we don't need to lecture you on your social responsibility. i'm convinced you are well aware of it, and i'm also convinced that you understand the perniciously maligned effects of abuses such as we've shown you,
and you have provided to us that in fact they are a cancer on our democracy and they will grow into distortions of our democratic process unless we throttle them by dischoesher. in this realm, the cure for untruth is, in fact, more truth, and disclosure, that's why i've joined the bill that's been offered by senators clovechar and warner, not limited to the political realm, because just as you said the internet is borderless, it is also largely anonymous. and it is ill-defined in terms of subject matter. so i want to first show you
something that i find maybe the most reprehensible sign of what can go wrong in this helm. and it is from twitter provided to us. it shows, in effect, a deliberate misleading of people, you're aware of it, that they can vote in effect online. and my question to you is, using this celebrity's image, he's well known to the group that's likely to believe it, prompted some people to think they voted, avoiding the lines, when in fact, their votes were completely negated.
do you know how many people voted in this way, thought they voted but in fact were fooled? >> we aren't able to quantify that, but what we were able to see before we took down this and all other tweets like this, and we've provided all of those tweets to the committee staff, is that there was -- there's an outpouring of tweets refuting these tweets as being false. and illegal voter suppression. we saw eight times as many tweets seen on the refuting tweets. we saw ten times as many users retweeting tweets that warned other voters. >> but there's no question in your mind that this kind of image is voter suppression? by the way, i have 20, 30, 40 of them, so there may have been people discounting them. but at the same time they kept reappearing. and you're telling us you have
no way of knowing how many voters, in effect, wasted their efforts believing this false image, correct? >> we were focused only removing the content quickly. >> can you do the research to tell us? >> we're not sure we're able to -- >> can you commit that you will try? >> we will get your staff all the information that we can. >> there's an area we haven't covered. if we still senator coons' image from the heart of texas -- it's been taken away, so we can do without the image. let me ask you, mr. stretch, that post or ad, whatever you call it, was in fact targeted to an audience, correct? >> so each of the posts was targeted to an audience. i confess, i'm not sure which
one you're referring to. >> the one that had the image f of -- an image of a soldier and referred to hillary clinton had the 69% disapproval rate among veterans. >> i'm that are with it, yes, thank you. >> so this ad, among many others, was provided to our committee. i've been through a lot, perhaps all of the ads, and what struck me is not just the ads and how misleading they are, and you used the word sophisticated, absolutely right. these ads are sophisticated in their malignant distortion. but they're also targeted. in fact, the information provided us indicates that this ad was targeted at people in the
state of texas, 18 to 65 years old. it had various other characteristics, interests, independence or patriotism. that's true of most of the ads that you provided us. which also was extremely sophisticated, correct? >> certainly the interest based targeting appeared to reflect an understanding of the type of audience these actors were trying to reach. >> there is a professional activity that helps target ads, correct? >> there are certainly many companies and individuals who work on targeting digital media, yes. >> do you know who helped the internet research agency in doing this targeting? >> senator, we're not able to see behind the accounts.
all we can see is the activity that's on our platform. >> so it could have been a political campaign that provided this information about targeting? >> as i say, we're not able to see behind the accounts. all we essentially get is the targeti targeti targeting information. >> let me request that you endeavor to give us information about how the internet research agency and any other russian sponsored activities were able to target these ads to specific groups, individuals, geographic areas, demographics, and age groups. thank you. >> senator franken? >> thank you, ranking member and the chair for holding this. we've been looking at the russian attack on our democracy and questioning government officials past and present and
campaign people for the trump campaign. but now this is -- the extent to which the russians exploited your platforms is bringing the question in, you know, maybe this isn't something -- this isn't something just the government has to do, but something you guys have to deal with and fix. and you were kind of the canary in the coal mines in 2016. at the same time russia was conducting cyber espionage against american political organizations, they deployed this propaganda program on your platform. in some case, paying for it in roubles. so i want to understand why no one seems to have caught -- caught on to the russian effort earlier. mr. stretch, how did facebook,
which prides itself on being able to process billions of data points, and instantly transform them in the personal connections with its user, somehow not make the connection that electoral ads, paid for in roubles, were coming from russia? those are two data points. american political ads, and russian money, roubles. how could you not connect those two dots? >> senator, you mentioned one aspect of the russian threat that was so visible in 2016, which was the question of account compromise, stealing
content, and disseminating them. and that's a threat our security team was intensely focused on, and we think effective hi addressed. i think in hindsight, we should have had a broader lens. there were signals we list -- >> okay, people are buying ads on your platform with roubles. they're political ads. you put billions of data points together all the time. that's what i hear that these platforms do. they're the most so fest kate p things invented by man ever. google has all knowledge that man has ever developed. you can't put together rubles with a political ad and go, hmm, those two data points spell out something bad. >> senator, it's a signal we
should have been alert to, and in hindsight, it's one we missed. >> okay, okay, yeah. will facebook commit not to accepting political ads paid for with foreign money in the future, say with roubles or the north korean currency? if a political ad is paid for by a north korean yuan, will you pledge not to put it on? >> senator, our goal is to require all political advertisers, regardless of currency, to provide documentation information demonstrating that they're authorized to advertise. the currency signal, i understand your point -- >> you can't say no to that? >> the -- >> please answer yes or no. can you do that?
you're sophisticated. you're the chief legal counsel for facebook. please answer yes or no. >> i can tell you we're not going to permit advertising -- political advertising by foreign actors. the reason i'm hesitating on foreign currency is it's relatively easy for bad actors to switch currencies. so it's a signal but not enough. >> well, why you would anyone use the north korean yuan? why would a bad actor trick facebook and say i'm going to use the north korean yuan? >> senator, our goal is to make sure we're addressing all forms of abuse -- >> my goal is for you to think through this stuff a little bit better. can i have a little bit more time? well, senator, you're next. >> thank you.
since all of you commit to doing better, do you have -- do each of you have a mission statement regarding your commitment to preventing abuse of your platforms, to promote as mr. stretch describes, to prevent the fomenting of discord? is there some statement that you can tell us that says okay, we're committed that this is not going to happen again? mr. stretch, we'll start with you. >> so our mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. our policies prohibit hate speech of all kinds, as well as other forms of bullying and harassment. >> one thing that you said, mr. stretch, in response to one of the other questions was, you said authenticity is our responsibility. i kind of like that as a mission
statement from all three of your companies. authenticity. >> at facebook, we do require people to use the service by the name they're known by. we believe that's a very important part of the service facebook offers. it is to us the corner stone of authentic dialogue. we want to make sure that people can trust the content they see. it is our responsibility to make sure that we're enforcing that by policing bad actors. >> our a simple mission statement saying, you can trust our platform. do you have a mission statement with regard to this particular concern that we are addressing in the hearing today? >> one of our underlying missions is to help unite, and the type of activity we're talking about is intended to divide. so we're working very hard on that.
we have a policy around anonymity to allow free speech and expression, especially in more difficult parts of the world, to enable political dissidents or embedded journalists or human right activists to take on a different persona that speak truth to power for individuals. >> we just put out a public statement, i think it was yesterday, about wanting to do better in this area, and setting out specific steps. >> we are interested in the specific steps. you said there were 150 people at facebook just focused on the
content of the -- the content of the platform. how many people do you have on twitter to concentrate on the content. >> it's hundreds of people. we're on a different scale than facebook and google, but we're dedicating a lot of resource to make sure we're looking at user reports that we think is violent, and prioritizing that accordingly. so facebook has 150, you said -- >> no, we have hundreds across user services. looking at the issues of content
on the matt form. >> what about you? >> google has had thousands of people. there's many different things, but internally we'll have thousands working on them. >> we also have content we need to review that come from outside the company. >> you have thousands of people just focused on content? you have thousands of people dedicated? >> dedicated to make sure the content across -- remember, google has many different properties within it. but the answer is we have thousands that look at content that has been reported to us as inappropriate. >> so do you think 150 people is enough people? senator, the 150 people i mentioned earlier is people
whose full-time job is focused on addressing terrorism content on facebook. in terms of addressing content on the site generally, we have thousands. and indeed, we have a community operations team that we announced earlier this year, that we were going to be adding additional thousands to the several thousands that are already working on this problem every day. >> i think it's pretty clear that this is a whole new misuse of your platform, and there are various ways to address terrorist content. this is a whole other thing. i do have -- may i ask one more question? this is a short one for mr. stretch. you indicated that there were 126 million people who saw the content. there may be other dark sources out there.
can you say that the false and misleading propaganda people saw on your facebook didn't have an impact on the election? can you say that it didn't have an impact on the election? >> senator, we're not well positioned to judge why any one person or an entire electorate voted as it did. the content that we provided to the committee was a very small fraction, 0.004% of the content served in the united states over the period in question. the point i want to emphasize is that any amount, however small a fraction of this sort of cop tent, has no place on facebook. >> i don't think anybody is saying this didn't have an effect on our election outcome. thank you. >> chairman graham authorized a second round of three minutes, if you're good to continue.
i'll turn to senator klobuchar. >> i have a question about voter suppression efforts. some of the ads discussed contained misinformation, telling voters that they could vote online, which wasn't true. in fact, here's one of them, telling people that they could just text hillary to that number and that's how they vote. you have clearly stated this would be wrong. in fact, illegal, right? >> that's right. >> you said there were more people on that line that called them out. but i just want people to understand what this is. efforts like this are actually criminal, people running these
kind of ads. i was thinking back to new hampshire, where some of their people there had engaged in activity where they shut down a line so people couldn't get people to the polls, it was voter suppression. the people that did that, one of them went to jail, three got charged with crimes. so my point is that these kind of ads, this is voter suppression that is illegal to do this. it is criminal. and i say it so that people understand why we need to have another kind of way to police this conduct so we don't have these things going on that are so very serious. that's why we have come together. so thank you. mr. salgado, intelligence agencies reported that the kremlin spent $200 million a
year spreading propaganda through outlets. president putin of russia thought to delegitimize the u.s. electoral system by intensifying critical coverage on r.t. r.t. is one of the most popular channels on youtube, is that right? >> yeah, it is a popular channel on youtube, yes. >> so youtube provides a chair of the advertising money that it makes on popular channels to the sponsors of those channels and there's these google calculators that can estimate potential earnings. the more clicks, the more money is made. is it safe to say here then that they make a significant amount of money in shared ad revenue from you, is google paying this kremlin owned entity? >> i think r.t. is making money on ad revenues through their youtube channel. >> do you pay them, is google
paying them? >> i'm not sure how the money flow goes, but the -- we would certainly be involved in the -- in the enumeration to the youtube channels. >> that sounds like you are paying them. >> the only reason i'm hedging is i don't know exactly the financials. >> we'll follow up in writing. >> thank you. >> a couple of final -- i hope very quick questions -- with respect to both the graphic that senator klobuchar just showed you and the one that senator blumenth blumenthal, you can at least tell how many people texted to hillary, you would know that. and you would also know who tweeted clinton-kaine, correct?
>> we would know the second one, but we wouldn't be able to tell whether someone picked up their phone and texted that number. >> okay. and there's been a -- kind of a bit of atmosphere here that in terms of small dollar numbers, vice news talked with the owner of a facebook page who uses ads to juice content. after spending $34,100, the page had 1 million likes. he was able to push out content that could hit some serious numbers "with a few advertising dollars, one video received more than 27 million views and 450 shares, spreading so much that donald trump's facebook shared it two days later." would you agree that the percentage share of your revenues that a particular
intrusion like this is not particularly relevant in terms of the harm to the public? >> senator, we're trying to provide facts, the information we know about our investigation, and we leave it to you and your investigators with visibility to a number of different sources to draw the conclusion. >> i just urge you to stop making the argument that because it's a small number it's not a concern. >> senator, if i may, we're trying to provide facts. i don't want to suggest that we don't think this is a big deal. we think this is a huge deal. >> terrific. last two questions. botnets, really good things useful to you or terrible things that are a menace? in this context? >> in this context, i would describe automated fake account
creation as a menace. >> i would have to agree. >> menace. >> shell corporations that prevent you from looking through them and seeing who the true beneficial owner is, they help or a menace? >> anything that prevents us from policing the authenticity of our users is a menace. >> i would agree. >> i agree with that. >> all right. i'm done. thank you, chairman. >> very quickly, i want to move to the second round here. so to make it clear, are any of you in the content business? do you make your own content? do you generate content? mr. stretch? >> the vast, vast majority of the content you see on facebook is user generated. >> what percentage of content on facebook do you generate? >> a minuscule percentage.
>> less than 1%? >> yes. >> what about you, are you in the content business? >> we're not in the content business. >> we're not in the content business. >> this is a -- mr. smith, we'll talk about this in a minute. this is provided by mr. smith. it's on the islamic state's niger telegram messenger channel. i hope they're out of business now. it encourages islamic state supporters to distribute official islamic state propaganda on facebook, twitter and google. it traps lates to, these are your domains, oh supporters of the caliphate. can you give me your -- do you all agree it's bad for business if the american public perceives you as being able to have your platforms hijacked by terrorists to radicalize americans? all bad for business, right? >> it's beyond bad for business.
there's no mace for terrorism on facebook. >> we would agree with that. our technology takes down 95% of terrorist accounts. 75% of them before their first tweet. >> i agree with that proposition. >> on may 22 in manchester, there's a suicide bomb bring the man in question killed 22 people. there's been isis bomb making instructional video on youtube to build explosive devices. you took it down, it came back up. how do you prevent that from happening? >> yeah, there are a few techniques to keep youtube videos that violate policy from coming back up. what is to take action on the account that the more sophisticated ways to generate a digital fingerprint of that video and then block future attempts to upload it. there are sometimes ways to evade it. but in general, it works very well. and when it works, it works perfectly. the other is to make sure that
we have fast flagging processes so that when it comes back up again, it somehow evades us, we are notified and take it down. >> in short order, what have you learned today, mr. stretch? >> the seriousness of this committee and the approach to in topic. >> i learned we have a lot more work to do and we are focused. >> i think it's quite clear this is a problem that's going to take the work of all the companies, policymakers, law enforcement, and ngos to solve. >> thank you all very much. we're going to do two more second rounds, and we've got to move to the second panel. senator franken. >> thank you, mr. chairman. okay, mr. stretch, facebook would not commit to not accepting political ads paid for with foreign money. i asked him a yes or not and he
would not answer. i would hike to ask the same question of you both. will twitter and google commit today to stop running electoral ads on american political campaigns that are paid for by foreign actors? >> i don't believe we do. and part of the initiative around transparency of who is paying for an ad is to help educate as well as who is behind the advertisement. but i don't believe we take roubles. >> okay. just yes or no, will you not take foreign political ads paid for with foreign money. >> yes. >> okay. >> i would want to check to make sure it's a good signal. if it's a good signal, yes. if it's not a good signal, it's not a good approach. >> really? >> the intention is consistent, that's right. >> foreign companies can legally
do that. >> right. foreign companies can. that's right. so the trick is to make sure that it is a signal that gives us the right hint. it's a very good signal, so it may be the right one to use. yeah. >> okay. foreigners can't, you know, use money in our campaigns. you know that, right? it's illegal. so you want to know if it would be a good signal whether to do something illegal or not? >> no, the question is whether it's a signal, if it's a good enough signal on illegality, but you're absolutely right. >> i think it's a very plain question. okay. mr. stretch, propublica reported that up until last month, facebook allowed advertisers using the self-service ad buying platform to target more than 2,000 people who expressed interest in the topic of, quote, jew hater, and other
anti-semitic themes. they were created by an algorithm, not a human being, and facebook removed them from the ad platform, but only after reporters notified the company about it. mr. stretch, i understand that facebook has since taken a number of steps to prevent targeting based on self-reported interests, but i question how such categories could be generated and allowed to persist without any human oversight. is it possible that facebook really didn't know that these categories existed until the media told you? >> senator, these categories, which of course, are deeply offensive and alarming, were as your question suggested, algorhythmically generated and we don't have any reason to believe they were used, but the mere possibility that our system permitted them to be generated is unacceptable. and that's exactly why we not only removed them but launched a
comprehensive review to make sure we have adequate guardrails in the terms. >> so you don't know how many people saw those ads? >> we're not aware of evidence that they were used. but the point i'm trying to make, senator -- >> but you don't know they weren't? >> we have -- we don't know for certain that they were never used. that's certainly correct. what we want to do is learn from this and make sure that with respect to the interest categories that we permit advertisers to target against, obviously, are not so vile and not so offensive. >> i know i'm out of time, mr. chairman, but you don't know how much revenue you generated from ad campaigns targeting jew haters. >> we're not aware of any using that target. >> but you don't know whether you did or not, therefore you don't know. the answer to my question is i don't know. >> the answer to you question
is, i'm not aware of any revenue that was generated. we have no reason to believe they were used, but i cannot state that without equivocation. >> thank you. >> senator kennedy. >> thank you, mr. chairman. gentlemen, let me say once again, i'm very proud that you're here representing companies that are american companies. and i do believe you do enormous good. but i do find your power breathtaking. i don't believe that you have the ability to determine the identity of all your adveriert r advertisers. you're good but you're not that good. i don't believe you. i'm not saying you're not telling the truth. i just don't think you can because they change so quickly. i also agree with senator durbin. we've got to be careful here. if we tell you go forth and don't run any more advertisem t
advertisements that are divisive, that's going to require you to edit and censor content. that kind of bothers me, too. here's my question on an unrelated subject. though it is related because none of this would be possible without your ability to target people. if i came to you, let's suppose i am a leather advertiser, and let me start with google because i didn't mean to pick on facebook all the time. and i came to google and i said look, can you put -- i want to run some liquor ads. can you put together for me a list of everybody who's depressed? could you do that? >> i don't think we would have the ability to do that or anything close to doing that. >> okay. how about could facebook do that? >> absolutely not. >> okay. could you put together -- could
facebook, could i come to facebook and say, i sell diet pills. can you put together for me a list of all teenagers who think they're overweight? >> no. >> you couldn't? >> no. >> well, i'm looking at a report from the australian, in may of 2017, where it reported that facebook put together a 23-page memo for an advertiser demonstrating how it could microtarget 6.4 million teenagers during moments of emotional vulnerability. when they were stressed and anxious and insecure. was that reporting wrong? >> that reporting relied on an internal document that was overstated and in the wake of that reporting, we have put in
place safe' guards to put in place ad targeting on that basis. >> i'm not accusing you of anything. if i could have 30 extra seconds. i know your internal rules and i respect those and admire those, but you have the ability. you have the ability to give me a list of people who are using facebook or google who are teenagers who are insecure about their weight. now, you may not sell that to an advertiser, but you have the ability. just like i believe you have the ability to go look specifically at senator graham's or me, my profile. now, you may have a policy against that, but i believe you can do it. can you not? >> again, senator, we have architectured our system so i may not. >> but you could if you wanted
to. >> any user on facebook will share information that's related to their own interests and their own activities. and it's -- it is precisely because that information is personal and why -- >> i understand, and i'm sorry, mr. chairman, but i'm trying to get a straight answer. i'm not asking you what's moral or immoral or what your rules are. i'm saying if you wanted to, is it not the case that you can go to john kennedy's profile and see things about john kennedy as a result of my activity on facebook? you have that ability, do you not? >> certainly, senator. any user, including myself, could navigate to your profile and see what you have chosen to share on facebook. >> does twitter have that ability? >> largely, our profiles are public, so all of the things you have liked or retweeted. >> does google have that
ability? >> if you went to your accounts page, you would see -- >> not what i'm asking. i'm trying to get -- i don't mean to be rude, but i want a straight answer. okay, if i'm the president of your company and i came to you and no disrespect, but said here's an order. if you don't do it, you're fired. and i'm taking all your stock options. okay. i want you to go find senator graham's account and tell me everything you know about him. i'm not saying you would do it, not do it. i'm ethics and not talking about your internal rules. i'm saying you have the ability to do that, don't you? >> we certainly have the ability to look at a user's account. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you to the panel. we'll have the second panel. thank you very much.
>> thank you both for coming. could you please raise your right hand? do you solemnly swear the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you god. the second panel consists of mr. clint watts, foreign policy research institute. he's been dealing with child
pornography and terrorism issues on the internet for a very long time. mr. michael smith ii is a terrorism analyst who has dedicated a lot of his adult life to dealing with jihadist efforts to radicalize on the internet and other issues. mr. watts, could you please lead us off? >> thank you, mr. chairman and members of the committee for having me here today. a decade ago, al qaeda in iraq littered youtube with violent videos. a few years later, twitter became a platform for alshabab and its violent tirades. i watched as thousands of men and women joined up with isis through facebook, twitter, telegram, and later paved the way for the islamic state and terrorist violence around the world. during that social media research, i encountered russian influence efforts. in the nearly four years since, i have watched as they have employed social media at a master level to perpetrate the largest and most successful
information attack in world history. a campaign that continues to harm our country even today. each social media company has uncovered some piece of russia's social media campaign. but no one company alone can fully comprehend the extent of kremlin operations. as they conduct investigations in their data, they'll each detect only those accounts where the kremlin failed to hide its hand. seen only the tip of the iceberg floating above the social media sea upon which they float. each platform serves a function, a role, and an interlocking social media ecosystem where russia pursued five complementary social media functions to achieve its objective. they'll do reconnaissance on platforms like facebook and linkedin. they'll host on youtube, both overtly and covertly to hide their hand. thaller do placement on anonymous websites or social media platforms like 4chan and
reddit. and they'll saturate their audiences on facebook, instagram, pinterest, or any other platform where there are americans. russia employs all social media to achieve its influence. a hypothetical example, an anonymous forgery on 4chan can be discussed on kremlin twitter accounts who can amplify those discussions with bots. they can report on that twitter discussion. the youtube news story is pushed into facebook communities, amplified through ads or promoted against bogus groups. each social media company will see a part, but unless all of the social media companies share their data, no one can fully comprehend the scope of russia's manipulation and the degree of their impact. russia is the first to penetrate the entire social media spectrum, but they won't be the last. it will be adopted by authoritarians, unregulated global corporations will use this to weaken countries and mire business challengers.
social companies must move to deal with russian disinformation and also look beyond to the much larger and ominous problem, misinformation. some analysts have concluded fake news outperformed mainstream news. the tragedy in las vegas, bogus stories popped up. more startling has been the ethnic divisions and ruling violence in myanmar stemming from misinformation disseminated on facebook. i would offer some additional recommendations in addition to my previous testimony to the senate intel and armed services committee. federal laws governing attribution of political ads and solicitations in television, radio, and print should immediately be extended to social media advertising conducted by all political campaigns and action groups. account anonymity provides some benefit to society, but they
must work to find all humans operate accounts. the negative effects of bots outweigh anything. reasonable limits on the number of posts any account can make during an hour, day, or week should be developed, and human verification systems should be employed by all social media companies. social media companies continue to get beat in part because they rely too heavy on technologists and detection to catch bad actors. the art of social media influence drives the science. figure out what bad actors do on platforms and it's much easier to detect them. threat intelligence proactively anticipating how bad actors will use social media platforms needs to be advanced to help technical detection improve. lastly, i admire those social media companies that have begun working to fact check news articles in the wake of last year's elections. these efforts should continue but will be completely inat kwt.
stopping false information, the artillery barrage landing on social media users comes only when the outlets distributing bogus stories are silenced. silence the guns and the barrage will end. the nutrition labels for outlets, news links and social media feeds and search engines, the icon provides users an assessment on the ratio of fact versus fiction and opinion versus reporting. the rating system would be opt in. it would not infringe on freedom of speech or freedom of the press. it should sit separate from the social media companies but be utilized by them. users wanting to consume information from outlets with a poor rating wouldn't be prohibited if they're misled about the truth, they have only themselves to blame. it's been more than a year since my colleagues and i described how the russian disinformation system attacked our american democracy. we have all learned considerably more since then about the kremlin's campaigns, witnessed their move to france and germany, and now watch as the
world's worst regimes duplicate their methods. yet our country remains stalled in observation, halted by deliberation, and with each day, more divided by manipulative forces coming from afar. the u.s. government, social media companies, and democracies around the world don't have any more time to waste. in conclusion, civil wars don't start with gunshots. they start with words. america's war with itself has already begun. russian influence is rife. we all are on the social media battlefield to quell information that can lead to violence and make the united states of america the divided states of america. thank you. >> chairman graham, ranking member whitehouse, distinguished subcommittee members and staff, i'm honored by the opportunity to participate in this hearing considering one of the most pressing challenges for america's national security. the global influence operations waged in the cyber domain who have converted popular file sharing sites into tools to
insight violence against americans and their closest allies. they have found it so easy to operate in online is one in which american companies could have reshaped years ago when anwar al awlaki used tools to expand al qaeda's reach into our homeland. meanwhile, petitioning for a tax like the one that occurred at ft. hood in 2009. in more recent years, the tusur of attacks executed in the west by islamic state supporters not trained in its primary areas of operation indicates they have achieved a power of persuasion sufficient to remotely acc accelerate the radicalization process. during this time, american companies whose technologies have been used by islamic states and other terrorist groups to expand their capabilities to recruit and insight violence have yet to develop counter measures. that situation very likely influenced russian intelligence officials' calculations when assessing the feasibility of plans to harness these company's
technologies targeting american voters. in mid-2014, the islamic state began converting them into tools used to wage the most aggressive and effective global influence operation of any terrorist group in history. with unprecedented efficacy, islamic state propaganda broadcast globally using tooled like youtube and google drive has helped engineer perceptions of the group which enable it to persuade supporters to execute attacks in the west. social media platforms have been used by islamic states to not only grow the audience for the propaganda but to also identify perspective recruits. islamic state has meanwhile used twitter to target attacks in the united states and to crowdsource threat campaigns against journalists and terrorist analysts, myself included. they have also used twitter on inkrichted and difficult to monitor chat applications like
telegram messenger. in 2014, the emergence of pro-islam groups highlighted persistence deficiencies against terrorist elements on the parts of american social media companies. since then, increasingly aggressive account suspension and content removal initiatives undertaken by companies like twitter and facebook have failed to dissuade islamic state members encourage support for the group. the same can be said for al qaeda. other alarming deficiencies are events by alphabet's policies. they have allowed youtube and google drive users to promote videos by jihadist clerics. killed earlier this year, senior islamic official is orthcleric whose guidance can easily be found on youtube. these videos help generate buy-in for jihadi. it informs the agendas of al qaeda and islamic state and other groups comprising the global jihad movement.
it has a sense of urgency to defend their faith vis-a-vis support for terrorism campaigns waged against americans and our allies. in addition to worldwide connectivity to swoeupporters, y make them attractive for terrorists. these companies allow account managers who are unknown to them to use various technologies such as vpns to mask their physical locations when active on these popular websites. this translates to an absence of risks and countered by islamic state propaganda and supporters sufficient to deterthem from exploiting the technologies because if they're using the right vpns as the islamic state has encouraged for years, it could be difficult for authorities to locate their loikzs. certainly, the same applies to a wide range of other illicit actors who are active on these platforms. ultima
ultimately, american companies are not doing all they can to mitigate threats iminated from spots on the internet managed by them. i look forward to further discussing this celt of problems with them. and that poster you shared earlier, the telegram channels, there are several hundred concurrently running right now, and i think the subcommittee members would be interest in knowing there has been an explosion of chatter during this hearing which suggests there may be a link to islamic state in recent events that just unfolded during this hearing in new york. >> you heard mr. smith, some of the companies talked about that, the workforce dedicated to trying to understand content that may lead to the casual observe not be jihadist in nature. did you hear that testimony? >> i heard a portion of it, yes, sir. if you want to ask a question according to it. >> what was your view? are they doing enough? have they figured this out? >> i don't have a strong grasp of what it is they're attempting to do. several of these companies have hired various academics who have
held positions at pseudo government think tanks such as the combatting terrorism center at west point and are well known about the books they have written about the islamic state. until recently, the people who were supposed to be experts on countering violent terrorism, probably had at best a junior level subject matter expert's knowledge of the ideology which informs the agendas of these groups. >> tell me what you think may have happened today. you were saying something about jihadist website. >> during this hearing, there have been several incidents that have unfolded, according to various news reports, which resulted in several deaths in new york. what we're seeing right now is an explosion of so-called chatter on key islamic state linked telegram channels which are increasingly indicating there may be a lik to the group. in a very least, when they promote information about these types of incidents, what it serves to accomplish is to remind so-called fence sitters, in other words, the people in
the west who have yet to emigrate into the caliphate or execute attacks at home, helps remind them how easy it is to do things the group has prescribed. >> has anybody taken credit for it that you know? >> not yet, but it's very early in the game. sure. >> if you could, give a grade to the three companies in terms of dealing with the terrorist threat on their platforms from a to f. >> senator, i would prefer to offer you written response to that, but in general, i think that they're all demonstrablykerred about the issue for a variety of reasons. however, the current legal framework doesn't compel them to do a what about that. >> you think we need laws to not only compel them but to help them. >> social media and file sharing industries have become incredibly integrative with our society. it's hard to fathom industries which are so integrative with our society, such as the automotive industry or the airlines industry, not having such form of stronger oversight
and the various policies which govern how they operate. >> compared to what we do with the tv station, this is almost nothing, right? >> the federal communications system could step in and petition that according to national security interests, these groups should do things like require only verified account managers. in other words, managers of accounts whose identities are known to them. that those are the only people hao can use things like virtual private networks and other specialized browsers to mask their physician locations. because right now you have a situation where a person can basically go on to these platforms and it would be like walking into a theater and screaming fire and watching people trample all over themselves and being a ghost. nobody has a way of attributing the activity. >> okay, thank you very much. mr. watts, what's your take of what the tech companies are doing? how would you grade them, if you could? >> i would say all have improved in recent years. facebook is the best based on my
experience. google is not far behind. twitter would be last, and always resists. i think all new platforms, especially with encryption, telegram, some of the dark social media coming up, will soon become platforms for bad actors and they'll struggle. each of these social media platforms is not built for security. much like cybersecurity. it comes later. so bad actors find out what the attributes are, the vulnerabilities of the platforms and they move there. >> even though they don't produce content like the local news, they're in the news business. do you agree with that? >> whether they realize it or not, they have become the leading disseminator of news around the world. >> we have all kinds of laws and regulations about how to run a tv station and news station, and we have virtually nothing in the area of social media for infrastructure. >> that's correct. that's why the russians or anybody who wants to do influence goes to that platform. there are actually no laws
restricting them from doing it. >> thanks again, chairman. mr. watts, you have been a u.s. army infantry officer, an fbi special agent on the joint terrorism task force, executive officer of the combatting terrorism center at west point and a consulant to the counterterrorism division. do you clearly take american national security seriously, it has been your life's work. so when you say the kremlin disinformation playbook, which we're talking about here, will also be adopted by authoritarians, dark political campaigns and unregulated global corporations who will use this type of social media manipulation to influence weaker countries, harm less educated vulnerable populations and mire business challengers, you're not just talking about the russian election manipulation operation getting worse and having to be contained. you're talking about it as if
it's a technology that other bad actors can adopt and have it metastasize entirely into new fields of dissemulation propaganda and so forth, correct? >> yes, everybody will duplicate this if they don't believe in the rule of law, they want to destroy democracies from the inside out. anyone with enough resources and time and effort, they put it against this, they can duplicate this. i could duplicate it if i choz to. >> if we don't stop it now, it's going to get exponentially worse. >> yes, and the one thing we should recognize even in the u.s. political context, if we don't put some type of regulation around it, if bodies like this don't decide how we want american politics to work, everyone will be incentivized to use the same system against their political opponents. if you don't, you lose. >> i asked the last panel to offer an opinion on how helpful they thought bougt nets were on
the general spectrum of being a really wonderful thing and the great help to mankind versus a menace in the context of this particular threat, how do bot nets fall on that spectrum in your view? >> i can't imagine in any way how bot nets, social bots amplifying information are more benefit than harm. it empowers the weak, it empowers those with technological advantages. you can spread a message, true or false, worldwide. it is a great tool. the comp uitational propaganda is powerful for two separate reasons. one, it can create accounts that look like you and talk like you. the other thing is it can replicate a message so many times. it can create false worlds in the social media space. >> sounds like both of those characteristics are fraud characteristics. not showing who you are and pretending you're bigging or
more than you are. >> you could employ the same even for spear fishing campaigns in the financial space to hack into accounts. you can put out false information or spearfishing in a very dramatic way for any cause. >> how about shell corporations? are they a hindrance to trying to penetrate these disinformation campaigns and figure out who's really involved? >> yes, i mean, i'm actually surprised that the russians made a mistake of buying ads directly through the internet research agency. i would have thought they would have used a cut-out or rented more. i would have used some intermediary, one that the kremlin made a mistake on this time. >> by the way, crazy eventuality, in the time we have been having this hearing, i made a comical reference to an imaginary entity called americans for puppies in prosperity. in the time i have mentioned that, there's now an americans for puppies and prosperity up with a picture of a puppy and
it's being tweeted out. >> congratulations. i was recently in finland. i presented to the europeans for their new hybrid center to fight this, before we had even left, there was a false account posing as the hybrid center they launched. >> let me jump into the problem of the dark web. particularly when you're dealing with recruitment for jihadi violence. very aunch, the initial touch is made through traditional social media, twitter, facebook, whomever. and then as soon as they think they've got a likely prospect, they move to a dark website where law enforcement can't follow them and where the people who are at that table before you can't track them. >> right. >> question for the record, because i don't think we have the time to go through all that now. but could you give some advice on what either your predecessors in those chairs or we in congress should be doing about that social media dark web link where so much of the evil
transpires. >> you radicalize in the open and you recruit in the dark. that's sort of how the system works. the more you can clamp down on the open space, the better you're going to be. there's less people to come in contact. it is a staircase that gets you to there. >> question, if x is the total amount of russian election propaganda interference activity taking place in america, how much of that x do you think your predecessors in those chairs are aware of and addressing? >> only -- >> almost all, a tiny proportion. >> a fraction of it. we monitor networks in the lead-up to the election going back to 2015, 2016. one network which promoted the campaign that we saw in july of 2016, we wrote about it at the daily beast, half of it is still here today. >> a tiny fraction. >> a tiny fraction. i could put at most, it depends on the platforms. some are better than other. facebook is probably removed the
host. twitter the least. i would bet twitter is less than a quarter, and remember, this didn't end on election day. they're repopulating these social media platforms ad nauseam, and they're trying to influence and infiltrate every u.s. audience space, by the way. the russians see it on boat sides, left, right, whatever it might be. >> chairman, thank you very much. >> thank you. if the two remaining senators could share five minutes, i would appreciate it because we have a pretty hard stop here. senator kennedy. >> i want to thank senator graham and senator whitehouse for holding the hearing and i want to thank you for being here. do you believe that facebook, twitter, and google have the ability right now to identify with accuracy who their advertisers are? not who they say they are but who they are? >> no. >> do you? >> i believe they could create policies to enable them to
accomplish that set of objectives, certainly. right now, the indication is that they do not have policies in place that enable them to understand exactly who is advertising on their platforms. >> okay. the first amendment implications of all of this concern me as well. i mean, what's fake news? what do you think fake news is? >> fake news over the years since i have been involved in talking about this is any news the other side doesn't like. doesn't matter what side it is. >> that's right. >> if i may, i'm teaching undergrads a course at georgia state university this semester titled media, culture, and society. and we're about to start classes focused on fake news later this week. i would submit that fake news might best be defined as deliberate mis or disinformation, which is tailored and engineered to achieve a particular outcome in the way of behaviors to persuade
perceptions in a manner that lead to behaviors such as perhaps a vote for or against somebody. >> that's a good definition. but i'll end on this. in whose opinion? >> but i think there are parameters we could come around. i mean, reporting versus opinion is a key point of it. i think also in terms of fact versus fiction, i have set up rating systems on foreign media outlets before the u.s. government paid me to do that. and the iraq/afghanistan campaign. so there are systems to do that. we have done it for military commanders overseas. we could set up a system. doesn't mean everybody would agree on it. >> let me ask you one last quick one. do you think it's a good idea to ask people who post political advertisements on these platforms to say who paid for them? >> yes. >> yes. >> thank you. >> that's a great segue, senator kennedy. thank you. >> i thought you would like that one.
>> thank you. and we hope you'll look at the bill. it was important for us that it be bipartisan because i think it was senator rubio who once said one election it affects one candidate and one party and the next time it's going to affect the other one. we all have to remember this. i have appreciated your questions along those lines, senator kennedy. so mr. watts, can you elaborate on how social media platforms have enabled russian actors to maximize their attempts to influence our decisions, and for instance, why can't they do that on tv? because really, the tv has a big reach, too, and so does radio. and explain to people out there why it's different. we know they're both paid ads. but how come they can get by with this on one -- with one media company's network and not the other's? >> social media allows anybody to be microtargeted. i could microtarget you or
someone overseas just based on the volume of information that's available there. it's openly available. the other part is they very much understand preferences and particularly social issues. if you look at the active measures playbook, they focus on four issues. political issues, social issues, three is financial, and fourth is calamity, or how people insight fear in them. they use that, they watch it and try everything. what you see from the ads going back to 2015 and the audiences they infiltrate, they were trying every divisive issue in america to see which ones stuck. once they figured that out, they doubled down in that space. the last part is they can make themselves look like organic americans. if they came through and said i'm the kremlin -- >> i'm a russian agent. >> i want you to believe this story about black lives matter protest or a bundy ranch standoff, you wouldn't take it, but as long as it looks like it comes from somebody who looks like you and talks like you, you're more likely to trust it.
that's why they're so effective. >> we have the honest ad bill. it focuses on the political advertising. we know as we have said many times it doesn't solve everything. it does have a provision in there that they should take reasonable efforts not to have foreign influence, which would be helpful with some of the questions raised here. but overall, do you see that as helpful to get the disclosures and the disclaimers and do you think it would be a good idea to pass our bill? >> yes, for sure. >> a softball question. >> they will have some implement asian problems. but yes, it's a good bill. >> i keep harping on the fact that little radio stations, the duluth radio station, they get these issue ads and they have to decide to put them online so people can see them or in a fall. i know they're smaller, but they get a lot of ads too, and they're somehow able to figure this out. what this would mean is they're simply going to have to start looking at themselves with all these people they're hiring as
having that kind of safeguards so that they're also looking at the ads. someone is, with some kind of rhythm in place. because they're actually buying the ads we're talking about. >> right. >> they're not just putting up the cap. >> that's right. >> so mr. smith, this little change in topic. we have seen alarming number of people traveling overseas to engage in extremist violence over the last few years. maybe a little bit decreased lately, but in minnesota, we had a number of recruiting cases that were prosecuted by the u.s. attorney's office. and some good results. and can you elaborate on that? and i personally have seen the social media and some of the stuff the fbi showed it to me in minnesota. they literally have them targeted showing air tickets from this is alshabab, minnesota to moeg adaishue. they have done that.
they have targeted ads to my state. could you talk about that and what could be done to police that. >> well, again, i think that oftentimes, let be stip back and say what you see with the islamic state is a far greater tolerance for risk in the employ of all these technologies to engage with people in the west, particularly in the united states. now, again, they're also simultaneously utilizing tools like virtual private networks so it can be very difficult to determine where they're located when they're attempting to initiate these relationship engageme engagements. with respect to the scenario you described there, i think that ultimately it boils down do if it's a literal advertisement, i have not seen a literal advertisement paying twitter to target those people, but as mr. watts was pointing out, the open source nature of these platforms makes it very easy for
even a person with limited technological savvy to target engagement. all they have to do is go to the search function, figure out what people are posting about, and they can generally start to watch those people's accounts and identify what their affinities are. is this somebody who is potentially sympathetic to the islamic state or al qaeda? now, meanwhile, of course, you know, in your state, it bears mention, of course, that one of the seven attacks in the united states explicitly claimed by islamic state occurred about a year ago in your state. >> yes, that guy, yes. we are still looking at the evidence, i know, about whether or not they actually did order that attack. >> we'll have to wrap this up. you want to finish your thought? >> yes. senator, i believe that one thing that can be done to help mitigate that reach is for a company like twitter, let's say if that was the case, that twitter was being used to engage with that audience in minnesota,
perhaps to do a better job of searching certain terms that are very well known to be associated with somebody who is expressing an affinity for these groups. >> very good. i'll ask the rest of the questions on the record. thank you. >> final thought, is it fair to say that foreign governments manipulating social media platforms, terrorists using these platforms to recruit people to their causes is a national security problem growing in nature? >> yes, there's no boundaries in social media. it allowathize weakest players to have the strongest support. >> yes. >> do you agree we're woefully unprepared to deal with these two problems right now? >> no. >> you think we are prepared? >> i believe we could do an exponential amount to mitigate much -- >> i'm talking about right now. >> i believe that could be accomplished in very short order. >> but i'm not talking about short order. i'm talking about today.
>> we have the capability. it's not being deployed. >> we're in no way prepared. >> to those who were injured and lost their lives in new york, we're thinking about you. thank you very much. we'll have open for one week anybody who would like to submit anything for the record. the hearing is adjourned. thank you both.
>> no, i'm here about this. >> okay. >> so on your hearing, did you get the answers you need? what are your concerns? >> good question. i think what we did today is discover how vulnerable we are as a nation to not only russia but other nation states to interfere in our democracy. how we're still grappling with the idea that terrorists can use the same platforms we do to recruit for their cause. when it comes to radio and telephone, we have a lot of laws regulating your behavior and what can be advertised. political ads are regulated. in social media, it's pretty much the wild wild west. i'm kwibsed now that self-regulation is probably not going to work. we're going to have to give the companies some structure, some definition. we're going to have to hold them accountable. and all i would say is that these national security threats consist of two forms.
nation states manipulating the information we receive, how to vote, messing with our election, and terrorists ewing the platforms to recruit to their cause, and both of those national security problems are being woefully unaddressed. i admire what the companies are trying to do. clearly, we have to do more. >> the representative are here are lawyers speaking on behalf of the companies. these aren't the names you hear around town, jack and all these guys who run the companies. do you think these were the right representatives for a hearing like this? >> maybe in a way yes because these are legal questions as well as policy questions. what did we learn today? we learned these three companies provide a service that millions of americans enjoy. the president said he didn't think he would win without social media. and now we see how these media sites can be hijacked by terrorists and bad actors like russia. it could be iran and north korea tomorrow. what does this committee do?
what we understoneed to do is s and find ways to bring some of the controls we have on over the air broadcast to social media to protect the consumer. and give these companies some guidance. thank you very much. >> can i ask you about the attack in new york. >> you tell me. >> a truck plowed into a crowd in new york city. without talking about the attacks today, when you thing about those attacks broadly -- >> one, they're very hard to stop. it seems to be the weapon of choice now, vehicles running into crowds. we went from airplanes to bombs to just vehicle attacks. so it seems to be a pattern. and i think mr. smith was saying there's a lot of chatter out on these websites. i don't know if anybody is taking credit for it, but no matter how secure you make the nation, all it takes is one person willing to die, to get in a car or get a weapon and use it until they're killed. it's a very difficult thing to deal with, but the key to this is intelligence gathering.
trying to find out these people before they act and stop them. and all i can say about the trump administration, you have taken the gloves off when it comes to war on terror overseas. we have to look in our own backyard and see do we have the intelligent networking capability we need to prevent these attacks. but at the end of the day, if somebody is committing to dying, it's hard to stop. >> can you stop it? >> there's just some things i don't want to oversell what we can do here. if you have somebody willing to kill themselves, the best way to prevent that is to find out who they are and if there's any profile out there, i don't know who the person was. should we have known? like the guy in las vegas, just came out of nowhere. so i don't want to oversell that we can always prevent these things, but here's what we have a requirement to do. do everything we can to prevent these things within our values and within our constitutional framework. i've got some ideas about how intelligence gathering has been basically compromised by criminalizing the war. this guy was talking in libya, i
don't know why he's not in gitmo held as an enemy combatant, interrogating him about what he knows in benghazi and terrorism in general that can immigrate to the united states. we have done a job of slowly and criminalizing the war. i think that's a mistake. thank you. and senator lindsey graham there, lastry referring to an incident in new york city that mayor bill de blasio has called a cowardly act of terror. from the associated press, a man in a rented pickup truck drove onto a busy bicycle path near the world trade center,