The companies’ comments came in response to another round of questions from Congress.
Google and Twitter told the U.S. Congress on Thursday that they did not spot any attempts by Russian agents to spread disinformation on their sites when voters headed to the polls in Virginia and New Jersey last year.
Facebook, on the other hand, sidestepped the matter entirely.
The admissions — published Thursday — came in response to another round of questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which grilled all three tech giants at a hearing last year to probe the extent to which Russian-aligned trolls sowed social and political unrest during the 2016 presidential race.
Specifically, Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris asked the companies if they had “seen any evidence of state-sponsored information operations associated with American elections in 2017, including the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey.”
In response, Twitter said it is “not aware of any specific state-sponsored attempts to interfere in any American elections in 2017, including the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections.”
Google, meanwhile, said similarly it had “not specifically detected any abuse of our platforms in connection with the 2017 state elections.”
Facebook, however, answered the question — without actually answering it.
“We have learned from the 2016 election cycle and from elections worldwide this last year,” the company began in its short reply. “We have incorporated that learning into our automated systems and human review and have greatly improved in preparation for the upcoming elections. We hope to continue learning and improving through increased industry cooperation and dialogue with law enforcement moving forward.”
A spokesman for Facebook did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday.
The companies’ replies to Congress — dated earlier this month — may offer only limited consolation to lawmakers who are worried that the tech industry is unprepared for an even larger election in November 2018. That’s why lawmakers like Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, have sought to regulate the political ads that appear on major social media sites.
During the 2016 election, Facebook said that more than 126 million U.S. users had seen some form of Russian propaganda over the course of the 2016 election, including ads purchased by trolls tied to the Kremlin as well as organic posts, like photos and status updates, that appeared in their feeds. Similar content appeared on Instagram, affecting an additional 20 million U.S. users.
Google, meanwhile, previously informed Congress that it had discovered that Russian agents spent about $ 4,700 on ads and launched 18 channels on YouTube, posting more than 1,100 videos that had been viewed about 309,000 times.
And Twitter told lawmakers at first that it found 2,752 accounts tied to the Russia-aligned Internet Research Agency. Last week, however, the company updated that estimate, noting that Russian trolls had more than 3,000 accounts — while Russian-based bots talking about election-related issues numbered more than 50,000.
Facebook, Twitter and Google each has promised improvements in the wake of the 2016 president election. All three tech companies have committed to building new dashboards that will show information about who buys some campaign advertisements, for example. Facebook also pledged to hire 1,000 more content moderators to review ads.
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