Google and Facebook are set to testify Tuesday and Wednesday during hearings before lawmakers to which they have donated thousands of dollars.
Two of the most massive companies in the world, Facebook and Google often use their overflowing coffers to influence public officials. But congressional investigators are concerned that Russian firms with potential connections to the Kremlin have been trying to harness, perhaps manipulate, the features and inherent makeup of the tech companies’ platforms to influence the American electorate. Google and Facebook’s general counsel, along with Twitter’s, are expected to provide testimony Tuesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Wednesday.
Google and its workers have donated to 52 out of the 55 legislators who sit on at least one of those three committees, according to data from Center for Responsive Politics. Facebook, along with its employees, made financial contributions to 40 of the aforementioned committee members. This data was first reported on by Politico.
For the most part, despite some exceptions, the donations were fairly split among party affiliation — a growing trend as both sides of the aisle are finding underlying, albeit sometimes different, faults with the tech giants. An immigration reform group led by some of the biggest names in the tech industry, like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, donated $5,000 to the Trump administration’s transition team, even after it vehemently opposed the then-presidential candidate’s immigration proposals. Google, whose leader is an unabashed Democrat and avid fan of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gave $285,000 to President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
But just because these corporations play both ends against the middle doesn’t mean the lawmakers won’t grill the executives during questioning. In fact, the hearings will be an opportunity for the congressmen to show that they aren’t beholden to donors — no matter how powerful or affluent — so congenial inquiries may actually turn into testy interrogation.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who often champions the tech industry, has raised the most money from Twitter, Google and Facebook, with $124,625 in total. Wyden, though, is not so much changing his tune, but rather growing increasingly skeptical that these companies are growing way too big and may need to be regulated. He recently cosigned a letter with a plethora of other Democrats asking the Federal Election Commission to devise new rules to prevent foreign groups from purchasing online political ads.
“Sen. Wyden has long stood for the principle that digital innovation, at its inception, could best flourish free of invasive regulations mean to benefit established special interests,” Keith Chu, a spokesman for Wyden, told Politico. “Today, however, it is clear the major digital platforms have a unique, urgent duty to police their platforms against misuses by actors hostile to U.S. interests, or attacks against core American values.”
A national security stalwart, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida raised more than $98,000 from the tech firms. It is likely he will take much of his allotted time to press the tech companies’ attorneys on what can possibly be done to not only abate foreign governments from exploiting platforms intended to be open to everyone, but to discuss terrorists’ use of social media — a topic that is also on the agenda.
Twitter declined to provide comment.
Google and Facebook did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment by time of publication.
This report, by Eric Lieberman, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.