Wed. 9:09 a.m.: Facebook, Twitter defend efforts to stop election meddling

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facebook and Twitter executives plan to defend their companies in two congressional hearings today, arguing they are aggressively trying to root out foreign actors who want to do the United States harm just weeks before the midterm elections.

Twitter’s CEO will also face angry Republicans who claim the companies have shown evidence of bias against conservatives. In prepared testimony released ahead of a House hearing this afternoon, Jack Dorsey says his company does not use political ideology to make decisions.

Congress has sharply criticized the social media companies over the last year as it has become clear that they were at the forefront of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections and beyond. That scrutiny has led to additional criticism over the companies’ respect for user privacy and whether conservatives are being censored — frustrations that are particularly heightened ahead of the midterms.

“The companies have made progress, the government has made progress, but the bad guys have made progress as well,” said Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, which will hear from both companies in the morning on the subject of foreign interference. Warner has proposed a series of ways the companies could be regulated for the first time.

The afternoon hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee will feature only Dorsey in a hearing focused on bias and the platform’s algorithms. Some Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have pushed the idea ahead of the elections that Twitter is “shadow banning” some in the GOP because of the ways search results have appeared. Twitter denies that is happening.

Missing from the conversation will be Google, which refused to make its top executive available for the Senate intelligence hearing. The panel invited Larry Page, the CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, but the company said it would send a lower-ranking executive instead. The committee rejected that offer, and is expected to have an empty chair at the hearing for Page.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said Tuesday that Google doesn’t “understand the problem” if it doesn’t want to work with the government to find solutions.

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