Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) questioned Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Capitol Hill Wednesday about their commitment to U.S. national security and what their companies have done to counter foreign influence operations on social media platforms.
Cotton, speaking during a public Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, titled "Foreign Influence Operations’ Use of Social Media Platforms, asked whether their companies would ever take action to privilege a hostile foreign power over the United States and "especially our men and women in uniform."
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Both Sandberg and Dorsey answered that they would not.
Cotton asked Dorsey specifically about the differences between American expectations of social media and the expectations of foreign governments, something referenced earlier by Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), who asked how the two social media sites would respond to requests by authoritarian regimes to take down content they saw as sowing discord.
"Do you see a difference between cooperating with the U.S. government and the Russian government or Chinese government?" Cotton asked.
Dorsey responded he did not know what Cotton meant. Led by the senator, the Twitter CEO confirmed the social media platform was an American company.
"Do you prefer to see America remain the dominant global superpower?" Cotton asked
"I prefer that we continue to help everywhere we serve and we are pushing towards that," Dorsey told the committee.
"We need to be consistent about our terms of service," Dorsey said before citing his company's need to protect the privacy of those who use its platform.
Cotton pushed back on the idea Twitter must approach business with the governments of Russia or China the same way it would cooperate with the U.S. government.
"What I meant was a consistency of our terms of service," Dorsey said. "There will always be exceptions, but we want to have those go through due legal process."
Cotton also asked about Dataminr, an official Twitter analytics partner, and the company's cooperation with Russian proxies in the past, Dorsey said the issue was separate from the decision to no longer allow RT and Sputnik to advertise on the platform. He said Twitter revoked the Russian-funded media networks' ability to advertise once it found out about their role in many counter-U.S. actions. Dorsey estimated RT and Sputnik had spent $1.9 million on the platform, an amount he said Twitter donated to nonprofits.
Cotton concluded his time by asking both Dorsey and Sandberg about WikiLeaks and its controversial founder Julian Assange, who Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while director of the Central Intelligence Agency, classified as a non-state hostile intelligence service. "This committee has agreed with that assessment now for a couple years in a row," Cotton said.
"WikiLeaks … remains active on both Twitter and Facebook, as does Julian Assange. Ms. Sandberg, why does Facebook allow WikiLeaks and Assange to remain active" Cotton asked.
Sandberg responded that she wouldn't "defend WikiLeaks" or the actions of "any page or actor on our platform" but said "WikiLeaks has been public information; it's available broadly on other media and as such it does not violate our terms of service and it remains up on our site."
Dorsey similarly answered, "We also have not found any violation of our terms of service, but we are open as always to any law enforcement insight that would indicate a violation of our terms."