In a Senate Intelligence hearing today about Russia-backed misinformation campaigns, chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) invoked a meme to describe Congress’ inaction on the issue. It’s as if, Burr said, Congress was “sitting in a burning room calmly with a cup of coffee, telling ourselves ‘this is fine.’” The panel of experts at today’s hearing included directors and researchers from organizations like the German Marshall Fund, the Oxford Internet Institute, and New Knowledge. They were tasked with identifying clear and effective actions that platforms and lawmakers could take to counteract the Russian government’s efforts to infiltrate American discourse by means of social media. Over the course of two hours, it became clear that many lawmakers see interference as a nearly impossible task to conquer for both the platforms and the legislative body that could regulate them. The panel comes on the heels of a white paper released on Monday by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), which outlined 20 possible solutions for addressing the misinformation efforts led by the Russian government and its Internet Research Association during the 2016 presidential election and beyond. Those solutions included requiring more transparency from platforms, labeling bots, and providing more data for researchers. Many of those same proposals were brought up by today’s panelists. Today’s hearing also comes one day after Facebook revealed that the company had recently discovered “inauthentic” political social media accounts and campaigns on its platform. “Twenty-one months after the 2016 election – and only three months before the 2018 elections – Russian-backed operatives… [Read full story]
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