Technology’s dark side: Pressure mounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google

Technology’s dark side: Pressure mounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google

To some extent, the damage is done: Users are questioning whether they can trust the information on social networks and search results . Sign up for the free Good Morning Silicon Valley newsletter. Twitter recently met with lawmakers, revealing that it found 201 Twitter accounts linked to the Russian entities that purchased ads on Facebook. And Google is also reportedly investigating whether Russian entities used its ads and services. “After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a recent post on social media. “I don’t think people are going to walk away from social media. Trump’s criticisms did hit a nerve with Zuckerberg, who runs a company that has a mission to “bring the world closer together” and has been touring the United States. That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like,” Zuckerberg wrote. Warner, D-Virginia, has been working on legislation that would require digital platforms like Facebook and Google to keep a public file of certain election ads and communications.

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Jeff Durham/Bay Area News Group Facebook, Twitter and Google are grappling with how their technologies might be harming democracy after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Facebook wants to bring the world closer together. Twitter vows to protect freedom of expression. And as Google tries to make information universally accessible, the company urges its employees not to be evil.

Now, these companies are facing a wake-up call after the U.S. presidential election highlighted how social media, ads and search results can distort facts, promote fake news or reinforce biases.

U.S. lawmakers are putting more pressure on the world’s largest tech firms, drafting legislation that would require them — like TV stations — to disclose more information about political ads they run online, including who purchased the ads and the targeted audience.

Accused of undermining the democratic process, the tech firms are acknowledging they could have done more to prevent foreign powers and users from buying politically divisive ads and spreading misinformation. Mistrust of their platforms is growing.

“It’s not just social media, but the whole internet platform business has shifted in the last six months from good until proven otherwise to bad until proven otherwise. It’s stunning,” said Steven Weber, a professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Information and Department of Political Science.

To some extent, the damage is done: Users are questioning whether they can trust the information on social networks and search results . Lawmakers are compelling Bay Area technology companies to testify before Congress — and then in some cases, criticizing them for not taking Russia’s possible interference in the U.S. presidential election more seriously.

Facebook this week turned over more than 3,000 ads — likely linked to Russia — to congressional investigators looking into whether the country meddled in the U.S. presidential election. The ads, which focused on divisive political issues such as immigration and gun rights, were seen by an estimated 10 million people in the United States before and after the election, the company said Monday.

Facebook said it found 470 accounts and pages linked to Russian entities that had placed the ads, and it shut them down because their identities weren’t authentic.

Twitter recently met with lawmakers, revealing that it found 201 Twitter accounts linked to the Russian entities that purchased ads on Facebook.

And Google is also reportedly investigating whether Russian entities used its ads and services.

Some tech moguls even expressed disappointment in themselves.

“After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a recent post on social media. “Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it. This is too important an issue to be dismissive.”

But as Facebook digs deeper into the negative roles it may have played in…

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