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Internet giants roasted by US Senate

Honestly.  Who would want to be a billionaire social media mogul nowadays?

There you are trying to make an honest buck only to get pelters from politicians accusing you of profiting from fake news.  And doing nothing to stop nasty Russian trolls infesting the internet.

The big three – Facebook, Twitter, and Google – have had their wrists slapped by a US Senate committee.  The committee are hot under the collar about the amount of fake news swirling around the internet.  And the Kremlin (allegedly) interfering in the recent presidential election.

senate hearing room

Image credit: Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

In hearings over several days the Senate committee have lambasted the big three.  With Facebook bearing the brunt of the criticism.

Of course the CEOs of the tech giants haven’t attended the hearing.  But their lawyers have.  And they’ve been on the end of a real ear bashing.

Mostly it seems because their inquisitors are annoyed Trump won the election.  I guess they’re not on their own.

Cyber-warfare

The senators haven’t held back.  “You just don’t get it,” said Dianne Feinstein a representative from California.

“What we’re talking about is a cataclysmic change. What we’re talking about is the beginning of cyber-warfare.

“We are not going to go away, gentlemen.

“This is a very big deal.”

Ouch.

fake news on social media

So what exactly are the senators annoyed about?

Russian operatives allegedly created organic posts and paid advertising on social media sites.  Mostly before and during the presidential election.

Inevitably Russia firmly denies this.  Needless to say the Americans don’t believe them.

According to Facebook Russian groups created 80,000 posts during the election campaign.  126-million American users saw the content.  Likes, shares, and comments helped amplify this audience.

A further 120,000 pieces of content were posted on Instagram.  The social media site has since deleted 170 accounts.

facebook likes

Image credit: tanuha2001 / Shutterstock.com

What about other social media sites?

Twitter deleted nearly 3,000 accounts linked to Russia.  The accounts were responsible for 131,000 tweets between September 2016 and November 2016.

Meanwhile over at Google.

YouTube saw more than 1,000 videos posted to 18 accounts.  The company said Russian ‘trolls’ set up the accounts.

How effective were these messages?

The YouTube videos had low view counts.  And it is hard to measure exactly how many people actually read the other social media messages.  Also there is no way to measure the influence of the posts.

Nevertheless, US politicians are clearly on a mission to make social media sites more responsible for the content they show.

To make their point the senators have spent several days displaying blown up images of social media posts and ads.

What were the Russians posting?

Many of the examples shown in Congress are simply hilarious.  They say a lot about the people targeted by the ads.

Perhaps the Russians should earn kudos for tapping into the psyche of Middle America?  Something they did far more effectively than US politicians seem to do.

An example discussed by the committee was the Heart of Texas Facebook group.  Founded and ran entirely from Russia the group managed to attract 250,000 followers.  It then organised a protest rally outside an Islamic culture centre in Houston.

Meanwhile the Russians had also set up a Pro-Islam group.  And organised a rally for their supporters at the same time and place.

Unsurprisingly the media on the scene couldn’t track down the events organisers.

clinton and jesus
heart of texas 1
facebook groups
rallies in texas

Images from US Senate

Has anyone seen Zuck?

Although they were in the firing line the tech companies gave the senate hearings a bit of a swerve.  It didn’t go unnoticed.

Democrat senator Joe Manchin told lawyers representing the internet giants: “I wish your CEOs were here.

“They have to answer to this.”

Surely they didn’t think Mark and the rest of the boys would turn up did they?

Oh the irony

Far be it for me to comment on the US Senate and their committees.  But some may find a delicious irony in the whole thing.

US outrage at political and social interference from a foreign power.  Outside interests trying to influence an election in another country.  Outrageous.

So un-American.

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Craig Ellyard

Token old guy in the office and lifelong Hull City fan with all the psychological issues that brings. To relax I enjoy walking my two Labradors, as well as running and cycling.

6 comments

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  1. RobG 16 November, 2017 at 10:56

    Well Craig much more writing like this and you’ll no doubt be running to the Ecuadorian Embassy as well!

  2. Carl 16 November, 2017 at 13:35

    When you scratch the surface the so called fake news is not so fake. More reliable that the corporate bbc and the corporate news papers , all owned by 2 or 3 people pushing the narrative!

  3. Carl 16 November, 2017 at 13:38

    What’s really going on is Syria and the middle east! UK has been is Yemen for 3yrs and still no one knows what they’re doing there!!!! I’ll hazard a guess tho! terrorising the Yemen people to capitulate to the Saudi Gov…just like Syria

  4. Rob 16 November, 2017 at 19:46

    Its very funny how ‘fake news’ suddenly gets top priority when important votes results dont go the way certain powerful figures want.

    Over the presidential election & the EU Ref you had such boorish hypnosis by the BBC, Sky, CNN, BuzzFeed etc etc such as scare tactics, false information, over-sampling polls, biased news, news to make people feel guilty and ashamed of their race etc. Thats all coming to an end now. The old guard media which was always at the top of the chain since TV was first invented has lost its peak and is rapidly fading. They are losing money and they cant get their messages across to the masses anymore because of social media. Social Media like Reddit, 4chan, facebook, youtube bloggers etc is the NEW media for news, gaming, cooking, fashion etc. The old mainstream media is afraid of this. Before they would laugh at these people but now they are very afraid because they are dying. Now they are fighting back kicking and screaming even labeling people like Pewdiepie a nazi who has over 50million subs on youtube. I dont like him but can give credit where due. They tried to destroy his career and in turn red pilled over 60million people extra. same with Pepe the frog which is but a simple picture or meme and the mainstream media label it a white supremacist symbol. These people dont understand the internet or even memes. They are way out of touch and out of date.

    They dont want people to discuss, share ideas, talk, they would rather you shut up and watch tv and zone out like before. So now what better way to label every youtube content creator faces of fake news. Very hypocritical considering these firms like the BBC has been spreading fake news for decades about war, financial issues, terrorism etc. Because relations with Russia is so bad they are trying to make it worse by blaming it on Russia for when something goes wrong. The government in most countries (especially German) is reforming the internet and is trying to silence people who speak unbiased, balanced news.

    I can safely say Russia had NO involvement with the Prez Election and the EU Ref result and even if they did people vote on whats best for them and not something they saw on the internet. If something did interfere with the results it was firms like the BBC & Sky for using so much scare tactics and emotional blackmail that backfired on them.

    The BBC protects peadophiles like Savile and other powerful MP’s that harm children or worse. The BBC needs either reforming or shut down. We shouldnt pay for tv license anymore for a firm that promotes fake news.

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