Tech giants face Congress as showdown over Russia election meddling looms

A showdown is looming in Washington between Congress and the powerful social media companies that have helped define the current unsettled age in western democracies.

The immediate issue before the Senate and the House intelligence committees, which have summoned representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google to appear on 1 November, is to determine the extent the companies were used in a multi-pronged Russian operation to influence the 2016 presidential election.

All three companies have admitted that Russian entities bought ads on their sites in an effort to skew the vote. In Facebook’s case, ads pushing divisive messages were bought by fake American accounts and focused on swing states. On Twitter, vast armies of automated user accounts – “bots” – and fake users helped promote fake news stories, damaging to Hillary Clinton and favourable to Donald Trump. Russian-funded accounts spread bogus stories across the Google search engine and its subsidiary YouTube.

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