Durbin Questions Facebook, Twitter, & Google On Extremist Content And Russian Disinformation

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today questioned executives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google at a hearing of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism entitled “Extremist Content and Russian Disinformation Online: Working with Tech to Find Solutions”. The hearing examined how entities affiliated with the Russian government used social media to spread disinformation and sow division during the 2016 U.S. election, and the use of social media to spread terrorist and other extremist content. 

Durbin brought up the letter sent to Facebook yesterday by 19 major civil rights organizations, which explain their “deep concern regarding ads, pages, and hateful content on your platform used to divide our country, and in particular, to promote anti-Muslim, anti-Black, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ animus.”

“I think when we start with the word Russian, fake, trolls, bots, so forth, we know the starting point is a trigger – something needs to be done.  The second thing we know is if it includes a reference to a political candidate or a party, then it’s in a category two of electioneering.  And then the third question gets into what you characterize in this case as vile content.  How are you going to sort this out consistent with the basic values of this country when it comes to freedom of expression?” Durbin asked Colin Stretch, Vice President and General Counsel at Facebook.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor are available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

The January 6 Intelligence Community assessment about Russian election interference found that “Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations – such as cyber activity – with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls.’”