Sep 29, 2017

Twitter's wakeup call on Russian election meddling

Top Democrats said Twitter needs to take the probe more seriously. Photo: Matt Rourke / AP

Twitter just got a major dose of reality in the investigation over Russian election interference. In a press conference Thursday after Twitter briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee staff, a visibly frustrated Mark Warner, the panel's top Democrat, laid into the social network for a briefing he called "frankly inadequate on almost every level." He said it pointed to a company that didn't understand the stakes.

Why it matters: Twitter and Facebook, which also briefed the committee on Russian election meddling on its platform, are finding themselves out of their depth. Lawmakers like the usually even-keeled Warner will keep hammering this issue for months to come. This is an active probe into foreign espionage — not a wonky regulatory issue that can be swept aside by savvy lobbyists.

What he's saying: "The notion that their work was basically derivative, based upon accounts that Facebook had identified, showed an enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is, the threat it poses to democratic institutions, and again begs many more questions than they offered," said Warner.

The details:

  • Warner's comments about Twitter came after Facebook was forced to promise to hand over the actual ads purchased by Russian actors before and after the election focused on divisive political issues.
  • He indicated that without companies being forthcoming about ad buys, "at some point these companies are going to test the confidence and faith that Americans have in their enterprises that's been built over the last few years."
  • Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was less outraged, but he agreed that Twitter needed to provide more. "Much of the information that Twitter used to identify Russian-linked accounts, however, was derived from Facebook's own analysis, and it is clear that Twitter has significant forensic work to do to understand the depth and breadth of Russian activity during the campaign," he said in a statement.
  • Twitter, Facebook and Alphabet had already been invited to testify publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Nov. 1. The House committee has scheduled its own hearing for October. This dustup ramps up the pressure on company execs, who often dodge requests to testify, to show up.

By the numbers: Axios' Kim Hart digs into the Twitter findings that set Warner off, and Axios' Stef Kight looks at an Oxford study finding that Twitter users shared more fake news than mainstream news during the election.

Go deeper:

Read about how drama over the Russia probe is just one place where tech is facing

ratcheted up pressure

in Washington.

Go deeper

Amid racial unrest, a test at the polls

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Eight states plus D.C. are holding primary elections today following a week of intense protests across the country over the brutal police killing of George Floyd.

Why it matters: It's the first major test for voting since the national outcry. Concerns over civil unrest and the police — as well as the coronavirus and expanded absentee voting — could reduce the number of voters showing up in person but heighten tensions for those who do.

Axios-Ipsos poll: America’s big racial divide on police, virus

Data: Ipsos/Axios survey; Note: ±3.2% margin of error; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

A new Axios-Ipsos poll finds that America has a massive racial gulf on each of our twin calamities — trust in police, and fear of the coronavirus.

  • 77% of whites say they trust local police, compared with just 36% of African Americans — one of many measures of a throbbing racial divide in Week 11 of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, taken the week George Floyd was killed by a white policeman in Minneapolis.
Updated 54 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Updates: George Floyd protests nationwide

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued for a seventh day across the U.S., with President Trump threatening on Monday to deploy the military if the unrest continues.

The latest: Four police officers were struck by gunfire while standing near a line in St Louis on Monday after a peaceful demonstration, Police Chief John Hayden said early Tuesday. They were all taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He said a small group of people had thrown rocks and fireworks at police officers.