Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Twitter Tells Congress It Found 200 Russian Accounts That Overlapped With Facebook

Charlie Warzel and Emma Loop, Buzzfeed:

But Twitter’s disclosures did not impress some lawmakers. After the meeting, Sen. Mark Warner, the lead Democrat on the committee, told reporters the discussion was “deeply disappointing,” calling Twitter’s presentation “inadequate” in almost every way.

“The presentation that the Twitter team made to the Senate Intel staff today was deeply disappointing,” Warner said. “The notion that their work was basically derivative based upon accounts that Facebook had identified showed an enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is, the threat it poses to democratic institutions, and again begs many more questions than they offered. Their response was frankly inadequate on almost every level.”

As tech companies play an increasing role in democratic processes worldwide, a regular theme has been their reluctance to admit to their own influence in a legal context. They’re perfectly happy to trot out the old Silicon Valley trope of changing the world and brag to candidates about the effectiveness of advertising on their platforms when it suits them. But when it’s time for them to be introspective about their own responsibilities, they suddenly clam up and claim that they can’t possibly have influence. They’re just “platforms”; they’re merely allowing a public forum for “all ideas”.

But their employees — generally young, generally male, and frequently white — write the algorithms that preference some of these ideas over others, recommend other users to follow, or surface different news articles. When you consider that they’re doing this for hundreds of millions — or even billions — of users around the world, that’s an enormous influence.

I’m sure these companies are thrilled to have such a significant role in our lives. But they aren’t taking responsibility for that.