WASHINGTON — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) are seeking new answers from Twitter and Facebook on the extent to which Russian bots and trolls have been involved in spreading messages about the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign.
The campaign is an effort championed by some congressional Republicans to release a memo authored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that outlines surveillance abuses at the FBI and the Justice Department. Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has suggested that the memo contains evidence of bias against President Donald Trump in the Russia investigation. Schiff, the ranking member of the committee, said Nunes’ memo is misleading and cherry picks information.
Feinstein and Schiff sent a letter to Twitter and Facebook earlier this month, calling for both companies to conduct an in-depth forensic examination. Twitter said that an initial inquiry had not identified “any significant activity connected to Russia” and the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag. Facebook said it is “committed to protecting our platform from bad actors who try to undermine our democracy.”
“We constantly monitor for those who engage in state-sponsored information operations on our platform, and we welcome informations about incidents that may have occurred on other platforms — in this case, Twitter — because it can help us to anticipate and understand new and evolving threats,” Facebook said.
In their new letter, the lawmakers say that those responses were incomplete, and that it was unclear they extent to which they have investigated the matter, and whether “any of the Russian-linked accounts involved in this influence campaign violated your respective user policies.” They also asked that the companies’ CEOs “immediately take necessary steps to expose and deactivate such accounts if you determine that they violate your respective user policies. We ask that you notify users who may have seen these foreign influence postings, and provide us with a description of proactive steps your companies are taking to identify, prevent, and thwart such foreign influence campaigns on your platforms in the future.”
They are asking that Facebook and Twitter respond again by Feb. 7. A spokesman for Facebook had no response beyond the letter to the Democratic lawmakers. A spokeswoman for Twitter said, “We have received this letter and look forward to responding.”
President Trump is determining whether to release the memo, and has indicated that he will. Republicans on the Intelligence Committee voted earlier this week to make it public, but it was then sent to the White House for a final determination.
But on Wednesday, the FBI warned of its release, saying that it “was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”