Google Not Likely to Appear at Senate Hearing on Social Media and Elections

August 30, 2018
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On Wednesday the 5th of September, the United States Senate will hold a hearing with top technology companies ahead of the November midterm elections. The Senate Intelligence Committee has invited representatives of Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Twitter (NYSE: TWTR), and Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL).

These are not only three of the most valuable companies in the United States; they are also the companies that own popular social media platforms that are used to share information around election time.

These platforms have also been misused to spread disinformation during elections. During the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter were used as tools for a Russian disinformation campaign. Political propaganda has also been spread by Iranian agencies in recent weeks. Facebook recently removed 650 Iranian linked accounts that were engaged in disinformation practices.

Lawmakers Want Input from Top Companies

Lawmakers want reassurance that social media platforms will have systems in place to reduce malicious disinformation.

Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, has been confirmed to attend. Twitter will send CEO Jack Dorsey to answer questions from the Senate. Google offered Kent Walker, a Vice President of Global Affairs.

Senators are not pleased and believe that Google or its parent company Alphabet should have nominated a leadership executive. The Senate Intelligence Committee told CNN on Wednesday that “The purpose of this hearing is to hear from senior leadership making the decisions, not those operationalizing them.”

Dem. Senator Mark Warner, a member of the Committee, said of Google that “I’m really concerned that, for example, with our hearing coming up with social media, that Google has not sent an appropriate representative, at least at this point. Because there are enormous problems and challenges around YouTube. I want to see the equivalent of the CEO or COO. To me, this will be an indication of how important they think this issue is. And if they don’t, we have other tools.”

Google is Position Could Damage Their Image

The Senate has now threatened to leave Google with an empty chair at the hearing. Google has not returned requests from major news networks to comment on the story.

Facebook stock value was seriously damaged due to a political scandal that erupted earlier this year. Google could face similar backlash if investors perceive them as being unwilling to contribute to information integrity during the midterms.

Google’s reluctance to be a part of the solution to the bipartisan issue of disinformation campaigns could be something they will regret. While Google remains the second largest publicly traded company in the world, this latest story could have a significant impact on their public image as we move forward.

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