Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) pushed back against "Morning Joe" co-host Joe Scarborough Monday when he suggested that members of Congress might be giving social media sites like Facebook and Twitter a "free pass" because they want the platforms' political support.
Politico reported on Sunday that in the weeks prior, Russian bots played a role in making the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag go viral on Twitter. The hashtag pertained to the so-called Nunes memo, named for Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R., Calif.), which alleged abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. President Donald Trump ultimately declassified the memo in response to public and GOP lawmaker-led pressure to do so.
Scarborough was fired up discussing the roll of automated Russian trolls, or bots, on social media platforms. He questioned why the bots were still allowed to exist after they were known to play a part in Russia's attempt to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Harris agreed with Scarborough's concern but said they're not "being allowed" to operate.
"I join issue with your sentiment, but I would take issue with the idea that they're being allowed to do this. I think part of what is happening, we had an open hearing, the Senate Intelligence Committee, with the social media on Facebook, Twitter and others," Harris said. "What became very clear to me is that there are still a lot of questions that have been unanswered for us as a committee, but also, have been unanswered for these social media sites."
Scarborough pushed back, questioning how difficult the issue really is for the company to address.
"They have some pretty smart people there. They can figure this out. Are members of Congress giving them a free pass because they want their political support?" Scarborough asked.
"Absolutely not. Absolutely not," Harris said.
Scarborough continued to push the issue, sarcastically quipping, "that would never happen."
Harris told Scarborough not to be "cynical" before talking about what steps have been taken. She noted her committee, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, brought Facebook, Google, and Twitter executives to Capitol Hill to testify last November.
"For example, if you recall, one of the questions that I was concerned with is how much money have they made off of the legitimate advertising that had been associated with the Russian advertisements? How much money has Facebook and Twitter–? And these are answers we have yet to receive," Harris said.
Harris was one of the top candidates to receive donations from individuals or organizations associated with Twitter and Facebook during the 2016 election cycle. She received $2,850 from Twitter-associated individuals or groups and $28,275 from Facebook-associated individuals or groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The totals may include donations from the organizations' PACs; their individual members, employees, or owners; and those individuals' immediate families.