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Durbin questions tech executives about Russia, disinformation during election

U.S.+Sen.+Dick+Durbin+%28D-Ill.%29+speaks.+Durbin+questioned+tech+company+executives+Tuesday+at+a+hearing+of+the+Senate+Judiciary+Subcommittee+on+Crime+and+Terrorism.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) speaks. Durbin questioned tech company executives Tuesday at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) speaks. Durbin questioned tech company executives Tuesday at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.

Daily file photo by Paige Leskin

Daily file photo by Paige Leskin

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) speaks. Durbin questioned tech company executives Tuesday at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.

Kristina Karisch, Web Editor

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U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) questioned tech company executives about how Russian-affiliated entities used social media to spread disinformation during the 2016 presidential election at a Senate judiciary hearing Tuesday.

At the hearing — held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism — executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google publicly acknowledged their role in Russia’s influence on the election for the first time, and promised to revise their practices.

Facebook pledged to publicize the funding behind political ads and hire more than 1,000 people to manually review the ad purchases before they go online, according to The New York Times.

Durbin read from a letter sent to Facebook on Monday by 19 civil rights organizations, which cited “deep concern regarding ads, pages, and hateful content on your platform used to divide our country, and in particular, to promote anti-Muslim, anti-Black, anti-immigrant, and anti-LGBTQ animus.”

Facebook received the most pointed questions at the hearing, after the company admitted Monday that over 126 million users had potentially seen inflammatory political ads during the election. The ads were bought by the Internet Research Agency — a company with ties to the Kremlin, according to The Times.

Durbin questioned the strictness of Facebook’s ad policies and how the company characterizes “vile” content.

“When we start with the word Russian — fake, trolls, bots, so forth — we know the starting point is a trigger. Something needs to be done,” Durbin said at the hearing. “How are you going to sort this out consistent with the basic values of this country when it comes to freedom of expression?”

Email: kristinakarisch2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @kristinakarisch

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