Google, Facebook and Twitter to testify before Senate panel

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Top lawyers from Facebook, Google, and Twitter will answer questions on Capitol Hill next Wednesday about the role the companies may have played in Russia’s attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election.

The day before that, on Tuesday, the same company representatives will testify before a Senate Judiciary panel.

“Google’s all good [to appear, and] we’re working with the others” to testify before the Judiciary subpanel on crime and terrorism next week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Politico on Friday. “It’s really important. We need to do this.”

Their public testimony in front of the House and Senate is expected to explain how Russian government-linked accounts spread divisive messages and fake news to U.S. voters. The companies are also a focus of FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

At 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday (Nov. 1), Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch, Twitter general counsel Sean Edgett and Google general counsel Kent Walker will testify in front of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. At 2:00 p.m. the same day, they will appear in front of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia Investigative Task Force. The hearings will be broadcast live.

The judiciary and intelligence committees have long jockeyed for position in their respective Russia investigations, at times zeroing in on the same key witnesses and targeting the same information about Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election. Graham explained that there was little risk of potential overlap between his hearing with tech companies and their scheduled appearance hours later in the House and Senate intelligence committees, noting that “Intel has got their own lane.”

“I think it’s pretty clear that [the] Intel [committee] has a real reason to be talking with these people about the way Russia acts and the intelligence behind who is buying these ads,” Graham said.

The focus of Graham’s judiciary subpanel hearing will be the best way to deal with “radicalization on the internet,” including the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. Graham said he specifically plans to discuss legislation from Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would mandate new transparency for online political advertising, suggesting he might be open to signing on.

“How do we deal with it? Do we need walls, or can you do it internally?” Graham said. “When it comes to Facebook advertising and social media advertising, it’s the Wild Wild West.”

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