- Facebook, Twitter, and Google gave cryptic replies when asked if they had examined whether the Trump campaign was sharing Russian content, and vice versa, during the election. The companies’ general counsels indicated that the House Intelligence Committee had access to intelligence that could better contextualize the information Facebook had turned over.
The general counsels for Facebook, Twitter, and Google gave enigmatic replies when asked by Rep. Jackie Speier on Wednesday whether they had investigated “who was mimicking who” when it came to online ads promoted by both the Trump campaign and Russia during the election.
“One of the things we noted during the campaign was that, often times, the ads from the Trump campaign mimicked ads from the Russians,” Speier said.
“What I’d like to understand is, who was mimicking who? To all three of you, have your investigations looked at whether the Trump campaign was sharing Russian content? Have they looked whether the Russians were sharing Trump campaign content?”
Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch paused before indicating that the committee had access to intelligence that could better contextualize the information Facebook had turned over.
“We’ve provided all relevant information to the committee, and we do think it’s an important function of this committee, because you have access to a broader set of information than any single company will,” Stretch said.
“I agree with that,” said Kent Walker, Google’s counsel and senior vice president.
“Same for Twitter,” Twitter general counsel Sean Edgett said.
Speier, a Democrat from California, pointed to TV ads purchased by the campaign that questioned Hillary Clinton’s health, which Trump also made “a feature of his tweets and remarks.”
“RT hammered the same message about Clinton’s health, and this RT advertisement on Twitter came less than two weeks after Trump’s tweet re-promoted video content produced by RT pushing the same” message about Clinton, Speier said.
The congressional intelligence committees have been examining whether the Trump campaign’s data operation knew about or coordinated with Russia’s disinformation campaign during the election.
The questions have centered mostly on whether Russia had any help targeting its ads toward swing states and voters who might be more vulnerable to junk news and propaganda. The Trump campaign’s digital director, Brad Parscale, was interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors last week.
More questions were raised after reports surfaced that the data mining and analysis company Cambridge Analytica – which was hired by the Trump campaign in July – reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange last June to offer help in finding Hillary Clinton’s “missing” emails.