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Engel Questions Twitter CEO Dorsey Over Foreign Interference in Elections at Committee Hearing

Engel Questions Twitter CEO Dorsey Over Foreign Interference in Elections at Committee Hearing

Washington D.C.— Congressman Eliot Engel, a top member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, questioned Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey at a committee hearing today over the steps he and his company are taking to protect our democratic institutions from foreign interference.

House Republicans held the hearing as a political stunt to claim unfounded bias against Conservative voices on Twitter. But Engel used the opportunity to discuss real issues pressing the American public, specifically foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

Engel focused his questions to Dorsey on Twitter’s recent efforts to take down a number of Russian and Iranian linked accounts, in addition to what the company was doing to prevent interference by foreign adversaries using bots or other fake accounts on the popular social media platform.

“Our country is facing a direct threat to our Democratic institutions,” Engel said. “We need to find ways to stop foreign adversaries like Russia and Iran from using American technology against us.”

“Can you commit to us,” Engel asked, “with any level of certainty the 2018 midterm elections in the United States will not be subject to interference by foreign adversaries using bots or other fake accounts on your platform?”

“We are committing to making our number one priority to help protect the integrity of the 2018 midterms, and especially the conversation around it,” Dorsey replied.

Video of the exchange can be found here. The full transcript of Congressman Engel’s exchange with Mr. Dorsey can be found below:

Congressman Engel:Thank you Mr. Chairman and Mr. Dorsey welcome. Our country is facing a direct threat to our democratic institutions, and we need to find ways to stop foreign adversaries, like Russia and Iran, from using American technology against us. Earlier this year Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed and indictment against the Russian Internet Research Agency, charging they created fake social media accounts, sometimes using American stolen identities, to sow discord and interfere with our 2016 election. I have a copy of that indictment with me here, and Mr. Chairman I would like to introduce it to the record.

Chairman Walden:Without objection.

Congressman Engel:Mr. Dorsey, Twitter recently took down a number of Russian and Iranian-linked accounts after they were tipped off by a cyber security firm. I am glad to see Twitter is taking action to protect us, but do you think we should be concerned that an outside cyber security firm detected fraudulent activity before you did?

Mr. Dorsey: I think it is really important that we have outsiders, and we have an open channel to them because they are always going to approach the data and work in a way that we may not see. We are going to do our best to capture everything we can, and be as proactive as we can, but we want to leave room for others to bring a different perspective that might look at what is happening on the platform than we do.

Congressman Engel:So how confident are you that Twitter can identify and remove all of the fake, and automated accounts linked to a foreign adversary on your platform?

Mr. Dorsey:We are getting more and more confident. I do want to state that this is not something has an end point, that reaches perfection. We are always going to stay ten steps ahead of the newest ways of attacking and newer vectors. We are getting more agile and better at identifying those, and that is showing in some of our results, which I talked about earlier. In terms of being able to identify 8 to 10 million suspicious accounts every single week, and then challenging them to see if they are humans or bots, or some sort of malicious automation.

Congressman Engel:I understand that Twitter is now requiring some suspicious accounts to respond to reCaptcha, to prove they are human accounts, and not bots. I was surprised to learn that you are not requiring users to do the same thing when they first sign up for Twitter. New accounts are authenticated using only an email address. Can you tell me why that is?

Mr. Dorsey:We actually do send accounts through a variety of authentication including sometimes reCaptcha. It really depends on the context and the information we have. We have thwarted over half a million accounts from even logging in in the first place because of that.

Congressman Engel:I understand that dealing with foreign adversaries can be difficult. Twitter may respond to one practice, only to find new tactics are being used to sow discord. Can you commit to us with any level of certainty the 2018 midterm elections in the United States will not be subject to interference by foreign adversaries using bots or other fake accounts on your platform?

Mr. Dorsey:We are committing to making our number one priority to help protect the integrity of the 2018 midterms, and especially the conversation around it.

Congressman Engel:Let me ask you this finally, are you aware of foreign adversaries using any different tactics on your platform to interfere with our 2018 midterm elections?

Mr. Dorsey:None that we have not communicated to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and any that we do find, we will be communicating and sharing with them.

Congressman Engel: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.