Senators to study social media and meddling

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), at right, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), arrive for a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), will hold an open hearing to examine how foreign meddling in U.S. elections used social media to try to impact 2016 votes. Social media experts will discuss the issue with lawmakers in a somewhat rare open forum.

In the hearing scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m., witnesses will include: Renee DiResta, director of research, New Knowledge; Dr. Philip Howard, director, Oxford Internet Institute; and Laura Rosenberger, director, Alliance for Securing Democracy at The German Marshall Fund of the United States.

The hearing comes as the SSCI prepare to question top Facebook and Twitter executives in September on U.S. election meddling. The committee has been investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey are reportedly scheduled to testify at that hearing. Facebook reported that 126 million Americans may have seen Russian-backed political content on its platform over a two-year period.

In February, U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Russia will try to interfere in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections by using social media to spread propaganda and misleading reports, much as it did in the 2016 campaign.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Russia and other foreign entities were likely to attack U.S. and European elections this year and beyond, adding that Moscow believes similar efforts successfully undermined U.S. democracy two years ago.