How to watch Facebook and Twitter’s big hearings with Congress

On Wednesday, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will appear before Congress in the latest high profile hearings for tech on Capitol Hill. The main event will take place at 9:30 a.m. ET, as the pair of tech execs faces the defense and cybersecurity-minded Senate Select Intelligence Committee. Following that hearing, Dorsey […]

On Wednesday, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will appear before Congress in the latest high profile hearings for tech on Capitol Hill. The main event will take place at 9:30 a.m. ET, as the pair of tech execs faces the defense and cybersecurity-minded Senate Select Intelligence Committee.

Following that hearing, Dorsey will stick around for a chat with the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a hearing set for 1:30 p.m ET. For a thorough preview, you can catch Facebook and Twitter’s opening statements.

In the Senate hearing, expect most of the discussion to focus on the company’s efforts to thwart coordinated efforts by US adversaries to influence domestic politics. Titled “Foreign Influence Operations and Their Use of Social Media Platforms,” the hearing will give some of the Senate’s most tech-savvy members a chance to take their questions and concerns straight to the top.

As the name suggests, the conversation will likely center on social media disinformation campaigns in relation to the upcoming US midterm elections and the cybersecurity efforts made to detect and prevent them. The hearing could also tap into recent conversations around censorship and harassment, though those topics aren’t intended to be the meat of the conversation.

You should be able to stream tomorrow’s Senate hearing below. If that stream isn’t working, the committee will likely stream the hearing on its own event page or you can check C-SPAN’s designated hearing page for a live stream with light commentary.

Compared to the day’s first hearing, the House hearing is a bit more unpredictable. Titled “Twitter: Transparency and Accountability,” the House’s conversation will likely be exploratory rather than solution-oriented in nature, delving into deeply partisan topics around political bias and censorship. Without Facebook by his side to catch some of the heat, Dorsey will be holding his own alone so that alone might make it worth a watch.

In a press release, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden described the decision to call on Dorsey:

“This hearing is about transparency, accountability, and action. We want to take complex, opaque algorithms out of the dark and shed light on the role they play in consumers’ lives. We want to better understand the decisions Twitter makes about content and the company’s process to prevent mistakes and undue bias. The committee takes these issues seriously on behalf of consumers, and expects the same of Twitter.”

If you’d like to tune in to the House hearing, you should be able to stream it live below. If that doesn’t work, the committee’s own landing page should be streaming the hearing.

Facebook and Microsoft briefed state officials on election security efforts today

So much for summer Fridays. Yesterday, BuzzFeed reported that a dozen tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Snapchat, would meet at Twitter headquarters on Friday to discuss election security. For two of them, that wasn’t the only meeting in the books. In what appears to be a separate event on Friday, Facebook and Microsoft […]

So much for summer Fridays. Yesterday, BuzzFeed reported that a dozen tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Snapchat, would meet at Twitter headquarters on Friday to discuss election security. For two of them, that wasn’t the only meeting in the books.

In what appears to be a separate event on Friday, Facebook and Microsoft also met with the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and two bodies of state election officials, the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) and the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), about their election security efforts.

The discussion was the second of its kind connecting DHS, Facebook and state election officials on “actions being taken to combat malicious interference operations.” The meetings offer two very different perspectives on threats to election security. States are largely concerned with securing voter databases and election systems, while private tech companies are waging a very public war against coordinated disinformation campaigns by U.S. foreign adversaries on their platforms. Social media platforms and election systems themselves are two important yet usually disconnected fronts in the ongoing war against Russian election interference.

“Effectively combatting coordinated information operations requires many parts of society working together, which is why Facebook believes so strongly in the need for collaboration between law enforcement, government agencies, security experts and other companies to confront these growing threats,” Facebook VP of Public Policy Kevin Martin said of the meeting.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to brief state election officials on a recent call convened by DHS and again today as part of our continued effort to develop collaborative relationships between government and private industry.”

Curiously, while Microsoft and Facebook attended the DHS-hosted meeting, it doesn’t look like Twitter did. To date, Twitter and Facebook have faced the most fallout for foreign interference on their platforms meant to influence American politics, though Google was also called to Congress to testify on the issue last fall. When reached, Twitter declined to comment on its absence, though the company was reportedly playing host to the other major tech election security meeting today.

The meeting with state officials sounds like it was largely informative in nature, with Facebook and Microsoft providing insight on their respective efforts to contain foreign threats to election integrity. On Tuesday, Microsoft revealed that its Digital Crimes Unit secured a court order to take down six domains created by Russia’s GRU designed to phish user credentials. Half of the phishing domains were fake versions of U.S. Senate websites.

“No one organization, department or individual can solve this issue alone, that’s why information sharing is so important,” said Microsoft VP of Customer Security and Trust Tom Burt. “To really be successful in defending democracy, technology companies, government, civil society, the academic community and researchers need to come together and partner in new and meaningful ways.”

Google releases a searchable database of US political ads

In an effort to provide more transparency and deliver on a promise to Congress, Google just published an archive of political ads that have run on its platform. Google’s new database, which it calls the Ad Library, is searchable through a dedicated launch page. Anyone can search for and filter ads, viewing them by candidate […]

In an effort to provide more transparency and deliver on a promise to Congress, Google just published an archive of political ads that have run on its platform.

Google’s new database, which it calls the Ad Library, is searchable through a dedicated launch page. Anyone can search for and filter ads, viewing them by candidate name or advertiser, spend, the dates the ads were live, impressions and type. For anyone looking for the biggest ad budget or the farthest reaching political ad, the ads can be sorted by spend, impressions and recency, as well. Google also provided a report on the data, showing ad spend by U.S. state, by advertiser and by top keywords.


The company added a bit of context around its other recent ad transparency efforts:

Earlier this year, we took important steps to increase transparency in political advertising. We implemented new requirements for any advertiser purchasing election ads on Google in the U.S.—these advertisers now have to provide a government-issued ID and other key information that confirms they are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, as required by law. We also required that election ads incorporate a clear “paid for by” disclosure.

The search features are pretty handy, but a few things are missing. While Google’s database does collect candidate ads in the U.S. it does not include issue ads — broader campaigns meant to influence public thought around a specific political topic — nor does it collect state or local ads. The ads are all U.S.-only, so elections elsewhere won’t show up in here either. Google says that it is collaborating with experts on potential tools that “capture a wider range of political ads” but it gave no timeline for that work. For now, ads that the tool does capture will be added into the library on a weekly basis.