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Facebook, Twitter Face Grilling In U.S. Congress Over Election-Meddling Issue

Facebook and Twitter executives will testify before the U.S. Congress on September 5 on their efforts to root out Russian operatives and other agents who are trying to influence the upcoming congressional elections.

Congress has sharply criticized the social-media companies over the last year as evidence has emerged that they were at the forefront of Russia's alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Thirteen Russians were indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year on charges of involvement in an alleged plot to disrupt the 2016 election by creating fake accounts that pushed divisive issues on Facebook and Twitter.

Ahead of the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a Washington Post opinion article on September 5 that his company was engaged in an "arms race" with sophisticated hackers who want to harm democracy.

"Companies such as Facebook face sophisticated, well-funded adversaries who are getting smarter over time, too," Zuckerberg said. "It's an arms race, and it will take the combined forces of the U.S. private and public sectors to protect America's democracy from outside interference."

The committee also invited Larry Page, the CEO of Google's and YouTube's parent company, Alphabet, but the company said it would send a lower-ranking executive instead. The committee rejected that offer, and plans to have an empty chair at the hearing for Page.

Committee Chairman Richard Burr said that Google didn't "understand the problem" if it doesn't want to work with the government to find solutions.

Burr said he believed Facebook and Twitter do understand the problem, despite taking several months last year to acknowledge they had been manipulated by Russian operatives.

Facebook's No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg, in prepared remarks detailed many ways the company is addressing the matter, but acknowledges that the company was slow to spot it.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters