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Live Blog: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg face Senate

Dorsey and Sandberg shared the view that users should have complete control over the personal information they share with third parties like social networking sites – from withdrawing specific information to purging their entire data.

Shares of Facebook, Google and Twitter are down about 2%, 2%, and 5%, respectively at 11:45 AM ET.

Both the executives told the Senate they have been doing a lot to educate their audience on potential abuse and misinformation on the digital space by issuing warnings in real time.

Sandberg said that Facebook’s policy is to take down all inauthentic content indiscriminately, irrespective of whether it targets the domestic audience or people abroad.

She said hate speech is against Facebook’s policy and claimed the platform is safe for all classes of people, including unprotected groups like children.

According to Sandberg, the revenue generated by Facebook from allegedly illegitimate content is about 0.004% of the company’s annual revenue, from 2015 through 2017, which makes it insignificant.

Dorsey admitted that though Twitter canceled several Russia-linked accounts, it could not take any action to keep followers of those accounts informed about the misinformation they were being exposed to.

Dorsey claimed to have learned lessons from the recent national polls, especially the Mexico election, that helped the company take effective steps to prevent people from amplifying false information and to stop such information being spread.

Shares of Facebook, Google and Twitter are down about 1%, 2%, and 5%, respectively at 10:45 AM ET. Nasdaq drops about 1.5%.

Facebook supports and follows the democratic principles of all regions where it operates, including the US, said Sandberg.

Dorsey denied having knowledge about any agency using the Twitter platform to manipulate or amplify information for political gains.

Sandberg said discriminatory advertisement has no place in Facebook, and dismissed allegations of micro-targeting during the presidential elections to influence voters, especially minorities.

The Twitter chief said the company has been focusing more on the behavior patterns of users, using machine learning and deep learning so that fake profiles can be identified in real time.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook Image Courtesy: Facebook

According to Sandberg, Facebook’s policy team and security team keep track of and take action on incidents of coordinated inauthentic behavior on the platform such as abuse and violence.

Responding to a question on the vulnerability of user information, Sandberg said there are many ways for a user to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information on Facebook.

“People use Twitter as they use a public square. We have an openness with regard to collaborating with other social media platforms,” said Dorsey.

When asked to define “social media”, Sandberg said the term refers to “platforms that allow one to share what one wants to share without seeking permission.” On the scope of collaboration between different social media firms, she said, “Our collaboration with others has increased significantly, sharing information with other companies and intelligence agencies so as to initiate a collective defense against our opponents who misuse the platform.”

Shares of Facebook, Google and Twitter are down about 1%, 1%, and 5%, respectively at 10:20 AM ET.

Jack Dorsey, CEO, Twitter
Jack Dorsey, CEO, Twitter Image Courtesy: Twitter

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said most people use Twitter as a digital public place. “Twitter was unprepared and ill-equipped to handle unhealthy practices like abuse and fake news on its platform,” he said, adding that the company has successfully initiated measures to identify and cancel suspicious accounts, besides implementing more stringent policies and tools to track manipulation.

Sheryl Sandberg added, “As a first step to stop distribution of fake news, Facebook has blocked thousands of fake accounts in recent months. For ensuring better clarity on advertisement distribution, the company is keeping track of details of the advertisers and those who pay for the ads and the targeted demographic.”

“Facebook is committed to safeguarding the interests of American citizens and the political fraternity. Facebook was too slow to act on the interference of foreign entities in US elections, which is a mistake on the part of the company,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Mark Warner, Vice Chairman of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed his disappointment over Google not sending its representative to testify before the Committee, despite being the most powerful digital platform.

Richard Burr, Chairman of US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Richard Burr, Chairman of US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the role of social media in driving foreign influence. He also urged the need for social media firms to be candid about responsibility.

Twitter (TWTR) CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook (FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg appeared before a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Google (GOOG) opted out to appear before the Senate.

It is the second time Facebook is testifying before the Congress in less than six months. Earlier, CEO Mark Zuckerberg was summoned by the lawmakers in connection with the data breach scandal involving Cambridge Analytica and use of the social networking platform by Russian agencies to influence voters during the US election.

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