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Some thoughts on Facebook, Google and Twitter and the election of 2016

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary committee demonstrated their significant concern about the FB, Google & Twitter’s impact on the 2016 election. 

The questions and concerns are reasonable and I think all three companies learned a lot during the campaign and election and will make signficant investments to address fake news, fake accounts as well as our foreign adversaries influence on our national elections. There is no silver bullet, rather it will be an ongoing fight that these tech companies will have to deal with. Just like spam and other security threats.

However I would like to point out a few things worth considering. 

First, it appears fake news, bots and secret Russian ads were running for all of 2015 and 2016. It’s unclear to me much influence all of this had in the big picture when Clinton substantially leading in the polls throughout the campaign until FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress on October 27th, just a week before the election. At that point the hyper right wing (Fox News, Breitbart, Infowars, Sinclair) went into warp drive. The Comey concern was latter proved to be a non issue legally but the damage was done. 

Second, speaking of right wing media, lawmakers need to take a close look at Rupert Murdoch & News Corp. News Corp has a massive influence on voters in the United States. They own & control Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the NY Post. All three took a coordinated and active position on Monday pushing for the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is leading the investigation on Russian interference. To have one man (Murdoch) push his clear agenda in this way and with this much reach warrants clear investigation. Imagine if the CEOs of the tech industry decided by hand what posts are on the home page each day. 

And third, as I earlier stated, I understand the Senate Judiciary Committees concern with our tech companies. But they need to address the elephant in the room: the President refuses to acknowledge the central fact that Russia interfered with our election. The White House denied and continued to deny their campaign worked with the Russians. Yet, have continued concrete evidence to the contrary — campaign advisors pleading guilty, Donald Trump Jr emails making it clear he was seeking Russian assistance, and additional indictments clearly are coming.

The Committee will spend more time looking at Twitter, FB and Google I’m sure. But in my view this line of investigation is a second order bit.