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Sam Forsdick

Reporter

Facebook and Twitter call for more co-operation with US government to prevent election meddling

Facebook and Twitter have called for greater collaboration between the US government and social media companies to help prevent election interference on their platforms.

In a statement released ahead of a US Senate hearing, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, said: “Because cyber threats constantly evolve, we all need to work together: industry, government and experts from civil society. It’s especially critical for companies and government to co-operate.”

She described efforts to prevent election meddling as “an arms race”, adding that they need to be “evermore vigilant” to prevent a repeat of what happened during the 2016 election cycle.

Speaking on the failures of the 2016 election, which saw a spate of fake pages and accounts attempt to spread disinformation, Sandberg claimed: “Our understanding of overall Russian activity in 2016 is limited because we do not have access to the information or investigative tools that the US government and this committee have.”

However Facebook admitted that sharing of information already happens in the other direction. Sandberg revealed that the social media giant has disclosed user’s information with government officials and said it has “an easily accessible portal and process in place to handle these government requests”.

She added that any Facebook account data disclosed was “in accordance with our terms of service and applicable law”.

Twitter, which will also present at this afternoon’s Senate hearing, raised similar concerns.

In a pre-prepared statement, Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter, said: “The threat we face requires extensive partnership and collaboration with our government partners and industry peers.

“We each possess information the other does not have, and the combined information is more powerful in combating these threats.”

The two social media companies will not be joined by Google who appear to have declined the invitation to the Senate select committee. In a statement their chief legal officer, Kent Walker, reiterated Google’s commitment to “prevent the misuse of the platform”.