Angelo Carusone: The tech industry’s failure with the fake news crisis and foreign interference in American elections is a national security crisis

Angelo Carusone: The tech industry’s failure with the fake news crisis and foreign interference in American elections is a national security crisis

Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

This morning, the Senate Intelligence Committee questioned Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee are scheduled to question Dorsey about anti-conservative bias on Twitter.

On the Senate intelligence committee hearing, Media Matters’ President Angelo Carusone explained:

The tech industry’s failure to grapple with its roles in allowing -- and sometimes even enabling -- the fake news crisis and foreign interference in American elections is a national security crisis. The Senate intelligence committee is currently our best hope for getting some insight into the steps that tech companies have taken to address known problems. The committee is at least trying.  

On balance, committee members have treated this issue with the gravity it warrants and have worked to give the public actionable information about election interference and manipulation of the information ecosystem.

It’s been two years though since the fake news crisis of 2016 -- and for the committee to keep its passing grade, it’s going to need to put more pressure on these platforms to not only address the problems we know about, but to start focusing on preventing the next fake news crisis that will be fueled by synthetic video and synthetic audio.

On the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, Carusone added:

In contrast to their Senate colleagues, who are at least trying to stay focused on this national security crisis, House Energy and Commerce Committee has turned its inquiry into an embarrassing partisan mess steeped in conspiracy theories and right-wing chicanery. House Republicans don’t seem at all concerned with understanding and preventing foreign interference and instead are more concerned with helping Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, work the refs so that they can cheat the system like they did in 2016.

These hearings should be focused on things that we know are real, like foreign intervention, bots, algorithmic manipulations and other cheating -- where a lot more needs to be done in order to neutralize those threats.

In 2016, right-wing efforts to game the refs led Facebook to make significant changes its trending topics section that ended up greatly contributing to amplification of fake news as well as changes to its ad approval rules that helped the Trump campaign execute an aggressive voter suppression campaign. And baseless cries of bias no doubt contributed to Twitter’s inconsistent policy enforcement and inadequate response to its climate of harassment. So, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee working hand-in-hand with right-wing political activities to help work the refs is alarming and worthy of scorn.

Functioning democracy is actually at stake. Neither Twitter nor Congress should be wasting its time with this baseless and partisan bullshit.

Previously:

Executives from Twitter and Facebook are testifying before Congress. Here’s what you need to know.

Facebook is fueling far-right extremism -- and profiting off of it

Tech leaders are appearing before Congress. Here are the conspiracy theories that might come up.

Network/Outlet
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google
Person
Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey
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