Sep 5, 2018

Lawmakers demand more action from top Twitter, Facebook execs

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter's Jack Dorsey. Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Twitter and Facebook leaders defended their platforms' efforts to stem foreign election interference to lawmakers who said it was time for swifter action to stop online meddling in the democratic process.

The bottom line: Compared to previous hearings with tech executives, this one was less heated — with no major missteps by either Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook Chief Operative Officer Sheryl Sandberg. Dorsey, however, is appearing before a House committee on Wednesday afternoon where questioning will focus on accusations that Twitter reflects a liberal bias.

The big picture: With the midterms approaching, policymakers and Silicon Valley are both trying to avoid a repeat of the 2016 cycle, during which Russian operatives spread content on socially divisive issues ahead of Election Day.

What they're saying: Dorsey and Sandberg fielded questions from lawmakers for nearly three hours before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

  • Dorsey said he was open to labeling bot accounts for users but said it was sometimes hard to detect that activity. Dorsey said it was a question of "implementation" but that the platform is "interested in it and we are going to do something along those lines."
  • Sandberg wouldn't commit to sharing non-public portions of the privacy audits the company produces as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, but said Facebook would work with lawmakers on the issue.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio pushed the executives on how their companies would handle markets — like China — where governments push technology firms to censor speech. Dorsey, after an exchange, agreed that requests form U.S. lawmakers to limit foreign election interference were not morally equivalent to requests from those regimes.
  • The executives said they were working hard to address policymakers' concerns. Sandberg said that Facebook was "focused, as I know you are, on the upcoming U.S. midterms and elections around the world." Dorsey added: “Our interests are aligned with the American people and this committee."

Lawmakers said the time for action is now.

  • “It takes courage to call out a state actor, and your companies have done that, but clearly this problem is not going away," said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr as he opened a hearing. "I’m not even sure it’s trending in the right direction."
  • "We’ve identified the problem, now it’s time to identify the solution," he said, adding that "whatever the answer is, we’ve got to do this collaboratively and we’ve got to do it now."
  • "The bad news, I’m afraid, is that there are still a lot of work to do," said Sen. Mark Warner, the panel's top Democrat. “I believe Congress is going to have to act."

Go deeper

China approves Hong Kong national security law

Hong Kong riot police round up a group of protesters during a demonstration on Wednesday. Photo: Willie Siau/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Chinese lawmakers approved a plan on Thursday for a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong that would criminalize sedition, foreign influence and secession in the Asian financial hub.

Why it matters: China bypassed Hong Kong's legislature and chief executive to introduce the law, prompting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to announce that the city is no longer autonomous from the Chinese mainland and does not warrant special treatment under U.S. law.

Go deeper: Hong Kong's economic future hangs in the balance

Editor's note: This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

12 mins ago - World

Minneapolis unrest as hundreds protest death of George Floyd

Protesters and police clash during demonstration on Wednesday over the death of George Floyd in custody outside the Third Police Precinct. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

A man died in a Minneapolis shooting during a second night of clashes between police and protesters in the city over the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody, per AP.

The latest: Police said officers were responding to reports of a stabbing just before 9:30 p.m. and found a man lying in "grave condition on the sidewalk" with a gunshot wound, CBS Minnesota reports. On man is in custody over the incident.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,695,968 — Total deaths: 355,701 — Total recoveries — 2,351,638Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,699,933 — Total deaths: 100,442 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. Public health: CDC issues guidelines for reopening officesFauci says data is "really quite evident" against hydroxychloroquine.
  4. States: California hospitals strained by patients in MexicoTexas Supreme Court blocks mail-in expansion to state voters.
  5. Business: MGM plans to reopen major Las Vegas resorts in June — African American business owners have seen less relief from PPP, Goldman Sachs says.
  6. Tech: AI will help in the pandemic — but it might not be in time for this one.
  7. World: EU proposes a massive pandemic rescue package.
  8. 1 🎶 thing: Local music venues get rocked by coronavirus.
  9. 🎧 Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter ... vs. Trump.
  10. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy