U.S. Senators privy to the nation’s secrets declared Wednesday that the United States faces what one called a “cataclysmic” cyberwar with Russia and other hostile entities, and these senators were highly critical of the American-based but global social media platforms on which that struggle is taking place. Capping two days of hearings in which executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google were hauled before various congressional committees probing Russian influence on the 2016 election, Senate Intelligence Committee members debunked as simplistic the narrative that Russian efforts in cyberspace were aimed solely at getting Donald Trump elected president. Instead, senators in both parties described a complex and ongoing effort to undermine western democracies as a continuation of the Cold War on platforms that barely existed a decade ago. The intent is to “sow conflict and discontent over this country,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who represents the Silicon Valley where the companies are headquartered.
“You have created these platforms and now they are being misused, and you have to be the ones that do something about it, or we will,” Feinstein said.
Her colleague, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said that would not be easy under the First Amendment.
“We have to be very thoughtful here about who decides what is voter suppression and what is not, who decides what level of speech is acceptable and what is not,” said Blunt. Missouri was one of the top three targets of Russian paid messages, along with Maryland and New York. “It is an unbelievable obligation that the government has not been very good at, and an unbelievable obligation that it sounds like to me that your companies are all being asked to assume.”