Facebook's testimony leaks ahead of time [The Interface]

Revue
 
A big week on the ol' tech-and-democracy beat kicked off with a huge series of leaked announcements f
 

The Interface

October 30 · Issue #16 · View online
An evening newsletter about Facebook, social networks, and democracy.

A big week on the ol’ tech-and-democracy beat kicked off with a huge series of leaked announcements from the tech companies ahead of Senate hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday. Here are the most important numbers.
Facebook: 80,000 posts from Russian agents reached 126 million people between 2015 and 2017. The company also deleted 170 Instagram accounts that posted 120,000 pieces of content.
Google: 18 Russia-linked channels posted 1,108 videos to YouTube, earning 309,000 views; the channels have been suspended. Russia’s Internet Research Agency spent $4,700 on ads during the US election cycle. (Google published a PDF of its findings.)
Twitter: 2,700 accounts were linked to the Internet Research Agency — the company previously had informed lawmakers about just 200 accounts. Twitter “will also release a new study that shows the extent to which Russian-based automated accounts, or bots, of all sorts tweet on its platform,” Recode reported
On one hand, it’s impossible to infer the actual impact of Russian meddling from these numbers. On the other, Monday’s revelations indicated that the scale of Russia’s intervention was much wider than previously reported, reaching an order of magnitude more people than were previously thought to have been reached.
The numbers also give weight to one of the most important ideas to emerge from the tech platform election fiasco: the free, legal use of platforms like Facebook and Twitter was far more consequential than the paid use of their advertising platforms. Russian agents used freely available tools to reach most of the US electorate with stories that promoted divisive social issues and, in some cases, Donald Trump’s candidacy.
On Tuesday before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, you can expect lawyers for Facebook, Google, and Twitter to make the case that they are responding aggressively to the threat of future foreign meddling in elections. You can also expect skeptical questions from senators, particularly given that the number of people reached by Russia-linked posts continues to spiral with every new revelation.
It’s going to be a wild day! You can watch along with me at 2:30PM ET on CSPAN’s Facebook page. And of course we’ll have a big recap in tomorrow’s newsletter.
In the meantime, here’s some light preparatory reading!

Testimony
Here’s what Facebook’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, will say in his introductory remarks tomorrow:
Chairman Graham, Ranking Member Whitehouse, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. My name is Colin Stretch and since July 2013 I have served as the General Counsel of Facebook. We appreciate this Subcommittee’s hard work as it continues to seek more effective ways to combat crime, terrorism, and other threats to our national security.
At Facebook, we take all of these threats very seriously. One of our chief commitments is to create innovative technology that gives people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. We’re proud that over 2 billion people around the world come to Facebook every month to share with friends and family, to learn about new products and services, to volunteer or donate to organizations they care about or help out in a crisis. The promise of real connection, of extending the benefits of real world connections online, is at the heart of what we do and has helped us grow into a global company.
Being at the forefront of new technology also means being at the forefront of new legal, security, and policy challenges. Our teams work every day to confront these challenges head on. Thousands of Facebook employees around the world work to make Facebook a place where both expression and personal safety are protected and respected.
I’m here today to discuss two important issues for our platform and others like it — the threat of extremist content online, and what we know now about the efforts by foreign actors to interfere with the 2016 election.
When it comes to the 2016 election, I want to be clear: The foreign interference we saw is reprehensible and outrageous and opened a new battleground for our company, our industry and our society. That foreign actors, hiding behind fake accounts, abused our platform and other internet services to try to sow division and discord — and to try to undermine our election process — is an assault on democracy, and it violates all of our values.
At Facebook, we build tools to help people connect, and to be a force for good in the world. What these actors did goes against everything Facebook stands for. Our goal is to bring people closer together; what we saw from these actors was an insidious attempt to drive people apart. And we’re determined to prevent it from happening again.
Democracy
Russian-Backed Facebook Accounts Staged Events Around Divisive Issues
Facebook Stumbles With Early Effort to Stamp Out Fake News
Forget Washington. Facebook’s Problems Abroad Are Far More Disturbing.
Facebook’s 2016 Election Team Gave Advertisers A Blueprint To A Divided US
Who Will Rein In Facebook? Challengers Are Lining Up
Facebook working on adding state, local election ads to archive
Takes
Want to attack foreign election meddling? Hold internet ads to the same standard as radio and TV
Fashion, Maslow and Facebook's control of social
Zuck
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Makes Another Appearance in China
Launches
Instagram is testing a stop-motion camera for Stories
Instagram injects 2X bigger Stories previews mid-feed
And finally ...
Roger Stone Banned From Twitter After Threatening CNN Anchors
Talk to me
Questions, comments, complaints and tips to casey@theverge.com.
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Carefully curated by Casey Newton with Revue.
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