Facebook, Google, Twitter asked to testify about Russia
Tech giants have been asked to appear before Congress as a new study claims ‘false news’ targeted swing states during the election.
After accusing Russian-based agents of the purchase of $274,000 in advertising tied to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Twitter unveiled new transparency steps to let users know which ad campaigns are running.
In a blog post on Tuesday, Twitter GM of the Sales of the Product and Engineering Bruce Falck wrote that the company was the announcement of the new steps to “increase the transparency for all of the ads on Twitter, including political ads and issue-based ads,” as well as “the improvement of the control system for our customers and the adoption of stricter advertising policies.”
As part of the initiative, Twitter is launching an Advertising Transparency Center, that show things such as who funded the ads, including the ones that have a political agenda, how long they have been running and the ads associated with the ad campaigns.
TWITTER REVEALS $274K IN AD SPENDING BY THE RUSSIAN WORKERS BOUND TO THE 2016 ELECTION
In September, Twitter announced it also showed multiple accounts linked to the Russian activity, that Facebook saw on its platform, as well as $274,000 spent on ads served by a company with ties to the Russian government by 2016, during the AMERICAN Presidential elections.
Twitter said Russia Today (RT), which is classified as “strong ties with the Russian government”, allegedly tried to interfere in the AMERICAN elections, while the undermining of confidence in American democracy.” Twitter’s move prompted a scathing response from Russia Today.
The social media giant is making the ad transparency property as it tries to fend off proposed legislation that would regulate the sale of ads on its network.
The Fair Advertising Act, co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R.-AZ., Sen. Mark Warner, D.-VA, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN., is focused on their own Facebook, Google, and other digital media companies to provide details about the ads, and in particular, the political ads — public, including how the ads are targeted and how much they cost.
“To make it clear when you see it and engage with an electioneering [political] ad, we will now require that electioneering advertisers control of their campaigns such as” Falck added. “We will also have the look and feel of these ads and features of a visual political ad-indicator.”
Facebook and Google have also said that they will work with the legislature about the alleged attempts of the Russian-based agents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In a tweet, Warner said that the proposed changes by Twitter, ” a good first step,” adding “Online political ads need more transparency and disclosure.”
A good first step, especially with the public to create ads info. Online political ads need more transparency and disclosure. We need to #HonestAds https://t.co/ewDbd1hTxZ
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) October 24, 2017
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In addition to the above mentioned changes, Twitter said there would be a section in the Transparency Center for political ads for more details, such as “transparency about the identity of the organisation, the financing of the campaign,”and “focused on demographic data such as age, gender, and geography.” Twitter will also be the introduction of the “stronger penalties for advertisers who violate the policy,” although it does not specify what the sanctions are.
The aforementioned Silicon Valley giants are set to face the Senate hearing next week, where they will likely be asked to describe and explain how the Russian-based agents abuse of their respective ad platforms.
It is unclear who from each company will participate in the sessions, although Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg is not expected. Facebook is holding the third-quarter conference call with investors on the day of the hearing.
Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia