Oct 31, 2017

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Get smarter, faster ... Axios is launching a movement to help spread trustworthy, shareable news: the Smarter Faster Revolution. Our mission is to help as many people as humanly possible get smarter, faster on the topics that matter.

Sign up to be part of the cause, then recruit others and win cool Axios gifts.

1. The Russia tech hearings begin

Senators strongly pushed employees from Google, Twitter and Facebook on their ability to prevent foreign manipulation of technology platforms to undermine American democracy at the first of three hearings featuring the companies.

What you need to know: The companies committed to improving transparency obligations and putting the necessary human capital toward preventing foreign meddling from happening again. Senators from both sides of the aisle expressed skepticism that they'd be able pull that off.

"My goal is for you to think through this stuff a little bit better," said Sen. Al Franken in a tense back-and-forth with Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch.

Key quotes:

  • "I think you do enormous good, but your power sometimes scares me," said Sen. John Kennedy.
  • He questioned the assertion by Facebook's Stretch that it is able to trace the origin of 5 million advertisers. He said he's questioning "not your commitment, but your ability."
  • "There's a lot that I think you could have done earlier," Sen. Patrick Leahy said during questioning.
  • Responding to Twitter's general counsel's assertion that the company can "draw lines" between organic tweets and advertisements, Sen. Richard Durbin said: "When it comes to drawing those lines, it's a challenge for us and we do it for a living. I think it's going to be very hard for you too."

The bottom line: It's clear that lawmakers have real concerns about the massive influence of all three companies that goes well beyond Russian election meddling.

The hearing is ongoing, and Axios' David McCabe is in the room and keeping you updated here.

Go deeper: Former FBI agent says Russian interference started in 2014 ... People love technology, but don't trust it

2. What you missed
  1. Developing: Several people are dead and many others injured after a driver in a truck mowed into bicyclists and pedestrians on a bike path in lower Manhattan, per NYPD. Our live blog.
  2. Our fellow Americans: 67% of Puerto Rico is still without power, 20% is without clean drinking water, and 11% of grocery stores are still closed. Updates.
  3. Trump vs John Podesta: The president sparred with Hillary Clinton's former campaign chair, who called himself the victim of a "big lie campaign." Quotes.
  4. Trump isn't in favor of phasing in corporate tax cuts: "We're not looking for that. Hopefully not. Some people have mentioned that. Hopefully not."
  5. Jeb Hensarling to retire: The powerful House Republican won't run in 2018, joining 11 others who won't stand for re-election. Details.
  6. New climate change report: "The human symptoms of climate change are unequivocal and potentially irreversible," per a team of 63 doctors, scientists and public health officials.
3. 1 internet thing

What's the difference between "good" bots and "bad" bots? And why doesn't Snapchat have a fake news problem?

Dive in with Axios' Sara Fischer on how bots dominate the internet.

Mike Allen