Minn. Senators Lead Fight Against Foreign-Funded Online Ads

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The United States Senate opened hearings Tuesday on Facebook, Twitter and Google to figure out how to handle subversive and violent online content posted by foreign countries.

And Minnesota’s U.S. Senators are leading the online fight.

One-hundred-and-twenty-six-million people saw posts and links from Russian-financed ads during the 2016 presidential election, spreading misinformation.

Social media sites say fake users and content made up a very small — but impactful — amount of the overall interactions.

“The foreign interference we saw was reprehensible,” said Colin Stretch, general counsel for Facebook. “That foreign actors hiding behind fake accounts abused our platform and other internet services to try to sew division and discord and to try to undermine the election is directly contrary to our values and goes against everything Facebook stands for.”

Facebook, Twitter and Google told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that Russia’s social media meddling was much more extensive than previously thought.

“It’s vile,” Stretch said. “It’s particularly exploitative.”

klobuchar and franken grill social media giants Minn. Senators Lead Fight Against Foreign Funded Online Ads

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar & Al Franken (credit: CBS)

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is co-sponsoring the Honest Ads Act, establishing new rules to make online political ads more transparent.

“We don’t want foreign entities influencing decisions that our citizens make,” Klobuchar said.

And Minnesota Senator Al Franken had a heated exchange, demanding Facebook to promise not to accept foreign ad money.

“You can’t put together Rubles with a political ad and go like, ‘Hmm, those two data points spell out something bad?'” Franken said.

The social media giants say they support legislation, but are already making significant changes themselves.

Facebook is joining Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube to create the Global Internet Forum to combat terrorism.

The companies are employing thousands of workers and creating artificial intelligence to stop and remove extremist content.

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