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Editorial: McCabe’s departure just creates more questions

The investigation is important because the public needs to know about the attack perpetrated on the country by Russia. Earlier this month, Twitter announced nearly 700,000 users were exposed to Russian propaganda from more than 50,000 automated accounts during the 2016 election. Meanwhile, Facebook estimated more than 300,000 users were viewing nearly 130 Russian-created events between 2015 and 2017.

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Russian military admits significant cyber-war effort

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Science & technology department to take 50000 girls under its wing

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Facebook, Google and Twitter admit large-scale Russian infiltration

In his response, Stretch said that the currency transactions were “a signal we should have been alert to,” but would not commit Facebook to prohibiting the purchase of political advertising in foreign currencies.

“I can tell you that we’re not going to permit political advertising by foreign actors,” Stretch said. “The reason I’m hesitating on foreign currency is that it’s relatively easy for bad actors to switch currency. It’s a signal, but it’s not enough — we have to sweep more broadly.”

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chairman of the Senate committee, noted one particularly striking contrast where Russian-linked Facebook accounts sought to organize dueling rallies in Texas. One of the pages, called Heart of Texas, purchased an ad to protest “the Islamization of Texas” by directing people to assemble outside the Islamic Center of Houston. Another Russian-controlled page, called United Muslims of America, put together another event in the same location.

In his questioning of the witnesses, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., noted that the three companies only seemed to be banning accounts that misrepresented their owners’ identities, meaning that open attempts on the part of Russia or any other country to spread propaganda to Americans would likely be permissible on most social media services.

“We don’t have state-sponsored manipulation of elections as one of our rules,” Twitter’s Chief Attorney Sean Edgett, said. “The other rules, like [a ban on] inflammatory ad content, would take down most of these posts, but we don’t outright ban it.”

Twitter has been more aggressive than Facebook and Google in that it has now banned Sputnik News and RT, websites that are openly owned by the Russian government, from purchasing advertising on its platform. Twitter’s reaction may have been an attempt to get ahead of disclosures that it offered RT the chance to purchase 15 percent of the advertisements the microblogging service was planning to sell in the general election.

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Senators blast tech companies for their failure to stop Russian mischief on their platforms

Members of Congress blasted representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google on Wednesday for what they said was their inadequate response to Russian mischief made on their platforms during the 2016 election.

“I don’t think you get it,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told the companies’ general counsels during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. “What we’re talking about is a cataclysmic change. What we’re talking about is the beginning of cyberwarfare.”

Facebook’s Colin Stretch, Twitter’s Sean Edgett and Google’s Kent Walker revealed little new information about the extent of foreign influence on their platforms.

Representatives of the companies appeared before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday and were due to testify at a House Intelligence Committee hearing later Wednesday.

The companies appeared under-prepared to answer some of the questions on Wednesday. Stretch, Edgett and Walker produced statistics of Russia-linked advertisements and accounts, but questions about more general Russia propaganda on the platforms and socially divisive content drew only silences and promises to provide the information at a later date.

Facebook said this week that Russian-backed election content on the platform reached 126 million Americans; Twitter found 36,000 Russian accounts were active during the election; and Google said pro-Russian groups purchased $4,700 worth of ads on its platforms.

Senators repeatedly interrupted the general counsels’ answers and moved on before allowing them to finish, clearly exasperated by the counsels’ tendency to provide long-winded answers — and often by the answers themselves.

“It’s not clear that you or the public understand the degree of this,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. “You need to stop paying lip service.”

Wyden asked the three whether they were satisfied with their platforms’ monitoring of foreign influence during the 2016 presidential election — all three said no.

“This is not a Democrat or Republic issue. This is an American issue”, said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV. “You cannot allow what’s going on against the United States of America. You’re on the front lines with us.”

Manchin said the companies’ inaction threatened the security, safety and “sovereignty of our nation.”

The week’s hearings could mark a turning point for the internet giants as discussions of regulation come to fore. Twitter and Facebook have each moved to increase transparency around advertising, after public comments by CEOs Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg.

Several senators indicated during Wednesday’s hearing that legislation could be on the horizon for the tech companies, though they varied on the extent.

Manchin asked for the companies’ reactions to the proposed Honest Ads Act, which would require greater information around political content . Only Twitter provided an answer, and it was mostly supportive. Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said any legislation may have only the “lightest touch.”

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GFSU gets Cyber Defence Centre

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