Twitter was not "ready or equipped" for the vast manipulation campaigns that have plagued social media in recent years, Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday, as US lawmakers called for stronger efforts to curb foreign influence campaigns.
Dorsey, who appeared before the hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee about campaigns of foreign influence on social networks, said that the messenger service was configured to function as a "public square" but could not deal with "abuse, harassment, armies trol, propaganda through bots ". "
"We are not proud of how that free and open exchange has been armed and used to distract and divide people and our nation," he told the senators, who also listened to Facebook's director of operations, Sheryl Sandberg.
"We are unprepared and poorly equipped for the immensity of the problems we have recognized."
Dorsey said Twitter had stepped up its efforts to protect what it called a "healthy public square," but that the challenges were discouraging.
"We have learned from 2016 and more recently from the elections of other nations how to help protect the integrity of our elections," he said.
"But we all have to think much bigger, and in the last decades of today, we must ask ourselves the question," What is encouraging Twitter to people to do (or not to do), and why? & # 39 The answers will lead to tectonic changes in the way Twitter and our industry operate, the required changes will not be quick or easy. "
Facebook and Google
Sandberg echoed Facebook's thanks for not taking decisive action against influential campaigns from Russia that interfered with the 2016 US presidential election.
"We were too slow to detect this and too slow to act," Sandberg told the panel. "That is in us, this interference was completely unacceptable, it violated the values of our company and the country we love."
Lawmakers welcomed the comments but expressed concern about whether enough was being done.
"We have identified the problem: now is the time to identify the solution," said Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the committee.
"Unfortunately, what I described as a national security vulnerability and an unacceptable risk in November remains unresolved."
"Clearly, this problem does not go away, I'm not even sure I'm going in the right direction."
Senator Mark Warner said at the hearing that social media companies "were surprised by the brazen attacks of our choice" and questioned whether Silicon Valley is capable of dealing with the problem of foreign influence.
Warner said that "Russia has not stopped" and that "the information war linked to Russia" is still spreading.
"I am skeptical that, ultimately, you can address this challenge on your own," he said at the hearing. "Congress will have to take action here."
Google was also invited to attend the Senate hearing, but refused to send its executive director Sundar Pichai or Larry Page, the director of its parent company Alphabet.
In a written statement, Google's legal chief, Kent Walker, pledged to maintain efforts to thwart foreign interference in US elections.
"Google remains deeply concerned about attempts to undermine democratic elections," said Walker. "As we promised the committee last year, we have now fulfilled our four commitments to provide greater transparency in election advertising."
The Senate hearing was the first of two on Capitol Hill focusing on social media, before a session of the House panel where Dorsey would talk about "transparency and accountability."
In prepared comments, Dorsey rejected claims that Twitter operates on the basis of political bias.
"Twitter does not use political ideology to make decisions, whether related to the content ranking in our service or how we enforce our rules," Dorsey said in his written testimony.
"We strongly believe in being impartial, and we strive to enforce our rules in an impartial manner."
Dorsey's comments come days after President Donald Trump accused technology firms of "censoring" and repressing conservative voices.
Outside the audience, right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones criticized technology companies for curbing their efforts on social media.
Jones, whose Infowars site has been praised by Trump, denounced what he called "a plan to dismantle the conservatives, as well as communist China," adding, "this is dangerous, authoritarianism."