Social Media: The Fifth Column in the Fifth Domain

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The key question as representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google testify Tuesday and Wednesday before Congress is not how Russia used social media to interfere in last year’s presidential election, but rather what role U.S. voters, the federal government and social media companies should play in building resiliency against such disinformation campaigns in the future. However, in the short-term, collaboration between the government and private industry to institute transparency of ads may minimize the impact of nefarious foreign actors.

  • Tuesday, Colin Stretch, the general counsel of Facebook, Sean Edgett, the acting general counsel of Twitter, and Richard Salgado, the director of law enforcement and information security at Google, will testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism to discuss extremist content and Russian disinformation online.
  • Wednesday, Facebook’s Stretch, Twitter’s Edgett, and Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel, will also testify in front of the House Intelligence Committee following a earlier hearing at the Senate Intelligence Committee on the same topic.

While lawmakers are likely to criticize the social media executives for the exploitation of their platforms this week, the companies will likely respond that no private company should, in a free society, determine what is true and what is not. Social media, hailed as a powerful communication tool and a great equalizer by internet idealists, has also been clearly demonstrated as a critical element in amplifying deceptive narratives to susceptible audiences.

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