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On Russia, tech doesn't know what it doesn't know

On Russia, tech doesn't know what it doesn't know
From TechCrunch - November 1, 2017

While the Senate has spent the better part of a year making sense of Russias actions to influence the 2016 election, tech made quick work of its own analysisor so it thinks.

The glacial pace of Congress is often criticized, particularly contrasted to the tech industry, which still moves fast and breaks things, although Facebook gave up that slogan in 2014. But when it comes to examining a high-stakes blind spot undermining governments and endangering users on the biggest social networks in existence, somehow Congress looks more prepared.

After Facebooks September investigation revealed accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a detail that the company disclosed to Congresson September 6, all three companies have seized on that as both a starting and finishing place for their own investigations. Yesterday, in the first of three hearings with Facebook, Twitter and Google, Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch admitted that his company doesnt know if North Korea or Iran bought political ads on Facebook, while admitting that other U.S. adversaries certainly potentially could.

Beyond the Internet Research Agency

On Wednesday, Senate Intel Vice Chair Mark Warner voiced his ongoing disappointment with techs narrow investigation parameters and their failure to proactively ferret out Russian active measures on their platforms.

I still find it very disturbing that it appears, at least from Twitter and Facebook, that the sense is that all the Russian active measures only originated with one single troll farm in St. Petersburg, Warner said. It still appears that most of the work that youve provided us is still derivative of your initial reports.

I was hoping very much that you would come in today and either say that was absolutely all of it or weve identified other troll farms or other entities.

When Warner pressed each company to answer in yes or no form if theyd discovered the full extent of Russian active measures, all three eventually admitted that they havent. Facebook claimed it hasnt with certainty. Twitter admitted that its still working on it. Google called it an ongoing investigation.

Warner scolded Facebook leadership for bragging about how proactive they were in the French election without doing the due diligence on those accounts with regard to U.S. political activity.

Youve identified 470 accounts from one troll farm in St. Petersburg. There have been plenty of press reports of other troll farms in Russia, Warner said.

A widening gyre

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