- Congress held public hearings on Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US election Tuesday and Wednesday with representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter. The three companies sent their lawyers to testify, not their CEOs. Many political observers criticized the move, arguing it would have been better to hear testimony from the people in charge.
Representatives of Facebook, Google, and Twitter are all testifying this week before congressional committees investigating Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US election.
But the people speaking on behalf of those companies are their top lawyers – not their CEOs. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai, and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey didn’t show up to the hearings.
Many political observers, including members of Congress, expressed disappointment that the companies’ top leaders declined to publicly answer questions about the serious charge that a foreign actor used their networks to meddle in the US election.
Sen. Angus King of Maine was among those in Congress voicing his displeasure at whom the companies sent to represent them.
“I’m disappointed you’re here and not your CEOs,” King told the tech companies’ lawyers on Wednesday.
Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico echoed the sentiment.
In 2001, after some media outlets prematurely declared Al Gore the winner in Florida during the 2000 presidential election, their top executives testified before Congress, noted Jim Rutenberg, a media columnist at The New York Times. Those executives took responsibility for their outlets’ mistakes. Notably, Roger Ailes, then the head of Fox News, promised to do better and address the problem, Rutenberg recalled.
By contrast, the big tech companies “have not shown the same desire for accountability exhibited by Mr. Ailes and his fellow network chiefs all those years ago,” Rutenberg wrote.
Rutenberg wasn’t the only journalist calling out the companies’ CEOs for avoiding the congressional hearings. Vanity Fair’s Nick Bilton contrasted their absence in the halls of Congress with their willingness to do the seemingly trivial – have their pictures taken for magazines:
It's telling that tech CEOs can show up to photoshoots for magazine covers, but send underlings to testify in front of congress. pic.twitter.com/k1bNZrMGx0
— Nick Bilton (@nickbilton) October 31, 2017