Facebook, Twitter face congressional hearings on political bias, fake news

Twitter's Jack Dorsey left and Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., speaks during a news conference at Station F, a mega-campus for startups located inside a former freight railway depot, in Paris, Jan. 17, 2017.

"We are troubled by reports that the power of Twitter was misused by a foreign actor for the objective of influencing the USA presidential election and undermining public faith in the democratic process", Twitter General Counsel Sean Edgett told the committee November 2017.

Twitter's Dorsey was to follow his Senate testimony with an appearance at an afternoon hearing looking at that issue in the House of Representatives.

"We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act", Sandberg said during the Senate hearing, addressing Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 USA presidential election.

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"We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act", Sandberg told the committee in her opening statement.

There might also be overall uncertainty about the future of Twitter, now that Dorsey has publicly said the company is fundamentally rethinking core parts of the business.

Twitter does not operate on the basis of "political ideology", chief executive Jack Dorsey said Wednesday, rejecting claims of bias against conservatives.

While the committee invited either Google CEO Sundar Pichai or Alphabet's Larry Page to testify, the company declined to send either of its top executives.

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"I'm deeply disappointed that Google - one of the most influential digital platforms in the world - chose not to send its own top corporate leadership to engage this committee", said Warner.

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones held a press conference outside the Senate hearing room as the testimony began to criticize the social media companies for banning him and his website Infowars from their platforms.

"Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules", Dorsey said in prepared testimony obtained by Fox News.

President Donald Trump used Twitter on July 26 to fault the website, without evidence, for using so-called shadow banning, or limiting the visibility of, prominent Republicans. "It's not fair to large portions of the population", Trump said at a press conference last week.

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Instead, an empty chair, complete with a glass of water, joined Sandberg and Dorsey on the dais. Republican Senator Marco Rubio said the company might have skipped the hearing because it was "arrogant".

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