Social Media Giants Face Criticism on Russia

By Samuel Weber,
Technology and Innovation Writer

A protest organized by a group called The Heart of Texas and backed by Russian operatives, used social media to destabilize the American electoral process. Senators scolded Facebook, Twitter, and Google on Tuesday, as California Senator Dianne Feinstein told them that they, “Just don’t get it.” This is not a small matter either, as many are calling this the start of cyber warfare, and how media platforms can be used to spread messages of hate.

Facebook said earlier this week that 126 million people might have been reached by the Russian propaganda that was a combination of paid advertisements and non-paid ones, such as people organically sharing the messages. In addition, another possible 16 million people were reached via Instagram that is also owned by Facebook.

Senator Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence committee deputy chairperson, discussed how the Russian-made Heart of Texas group amassed 250,000 followers. The group started with very basic and harmless posts about Christianity, but after gaining traction and more following started spreading anti-Hilary Clinton advertisements.

One of the biggest problems Facebook and Twitter are facing is the number of bots on their platforms. Facebook’s lawyer suggested that only about 5% of its 330 million users are bots, but independent research pushes that number to almost 15%.

The companies and the senate all agreed that the platforms are leading the pack in the, “Fake News,” category, and how that must change. However, neither Facebook, Twitter, nor Google would agree to back the Honest Ads Act, which would regulate online advertising and specifically focus on transparency around political advertising.

 

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 7th print edition.

Contact Samuel at
samuel.weber@student.shu.edu

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