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Witnesses for Facebook, Twitter and Google arrive at Tuesday's hearing. Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP

The top lawyers for Google, Twitter and Facebook spent more than two hours yesterday explaining how they are cracking down on malicious activity by foreign actors, but we walked away from the hearing with a few unanswered questions. The tech execs will have two more interrogations today by both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

What was the overall influence of this Russian campaign? This question is at the heart of the investigation into social media's impact on the election, and it was posed by Hawaii's Sen. Mazie Hirono. But Facebook's general counsel Colin Stretch said he wasn't able to make judgements on voters' motivations last November.

  • Will the companies support the Honest Ads Act? They danced around whether they would back legislation that would make them disclose more information about online political ads. Sen. Mark Warner is sure to push them on this during today's hearing.
  • What about the role the companies play in shaping ad campaigns? Google and Facebook's representatives avoided commenting on a news report that employees had worked with an anti-immigrant ad campaign. And, thanks to the "embedded" employees the companies had with the Trump campaign, there are more questions about how the firms work with controversial issue campaigns.
  • Will their resources be sufficient to fight this issue? The companies have pledged to invest more money and personnel to catch and prevent extremist content. But several senators were doubtful that they'll be able to successfully identify the origin of so much content and advertising. This is a question that users have, too: Per a recent Axios-SurveyMonkey poll, a majority of Americans think that human screening (rather than algorithms) should be the primary way that social media platforms screen for "inappropriate and offensive ads or content."
  • How much do lawmakers really understand about online metrics? The tech execs are fluent in the language of impressions, organic content, reach and views — but it was clear that the lawmakers are not. Several asked for clarifications on the technical intricacies of the issue. It was a hard conversation to follow for those not steeped in internet lingo, and that could be a vulnerability for the companies trying to convince Congress that Russian-influenced content on their platforms was relatively small.

Today: The Senate Intelligence Committee's hearing with the companies starts at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, and the House Intelligence Committee holds its hearing at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

Go deeper: What Facebook, Google and Twitter said in their first hearing

Go deeper

22 mins ago - Health

First cases of COVID-19 Omicron variant discovered in United Kingdom

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Two cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant were detected in the United Kingdom over night, the U.K. Health Security Agency announced Saturday.

Why it matters: The discovery comes as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.

Updated 1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Americans are super-sizing their holiday travel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are rushing back into holiday travel, and many are taking even longer trips now than they did before the pandemic began.

The big picture: After skipping Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings last year, many people are eager to maximize this year's celebrations with friends and family. And flexible remote working arrangements make that easier than ever.

Updated 1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Pity the "green" car buyer

Expand chart
Data: IHS Markit Data; Note: Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Americans are more open than ever to trading in their gas cars for electrified vehicles — but they're flummoxed by the confusing array of green options arriving in showrooms.

Why it matters: Getting up to speed on the differences among hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles will be a challenge for car buyers — and salespeople, too — as we transition away from gas-powered vehicles over the next decade.