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Twitter's executives take a turn in the hot seat for the Russian probe

Former Twitter CEO Richard 'Dick' Costolo gives an interview in November 2013 on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York. Twitter executives testified Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

Twitter executives testified Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee about the company's role in perpetuating the spread of fake news by "bots" and trolls. The briefing was held behind closed doors. 

This is the next step in the committee's investigation into social media platforms. 

Russia used Facebook ads to sow political discord in the United States by advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement, according to a recent CNN report.   

Twitter allows users to register anonymously and has more public accounts than Facebook. Many lawmakers have expressed concerns about the proliferation of anonymous "bots" on Twitter and their potential to spread misinformation, according to ABC News.

Did fake accounts impact the election?

Facebook has disclosed that Russians created fake accounts and ads that appeared to be the work of American activists to spread discord during the 2016 presidential election.

While skeptics say 3,000 Facebook ads were unlikely to have affected the election, new information about the Twitter “bots” and trolls may have had more impact on election results. 

About 19 percent of all election-based Tweets were traced back to an estimated 400,000 bots during a six-week period from September to October 2016, according to a University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute study.

Senate staffers want to learn more about how disinformation on Twitter made its way into the news, and whether bots were used to boost Google rankings of fake or misleading news items, according to Politico.

Twitter’s response

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

What we know

Black Lives Matter ads were used to ‘sow political chaos’ – here’s who did it

Why Americans should care about Russian hacking

Twitter to testify before Senate in Russian probe

What’s next?

Twitter, Facebook and Google haven't yet said whether they will accept the invitations to testify publicly before both intelligence committees, according to ABC News. The House Intelligence Committee is planning to hold a hearing in October and the Senate Intelligence Committee has invited witnesses to appear on Nov. 1.

Senate aide told Reuters that the Senate Intelligence Committee invited executives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google to appear at a public hearing on Nov. 1.

One last thing…
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