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Feinstein, Schiff to Twitter, Facebook: Find Russian Bots Pushing #ReleaseTheMemo

Facebook ads linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the American political process are displayed as social media representatives testify during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Nov. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON — The top Democrats on the Senate Judiciary and House Intelligence committees have asked Facebook and Twitter to investigate how Russian bots may have been pushing a call for lawmakers to release a GOP memo alleging political bias and misuse of FISA powers by the FBI.

The four-page memo was written by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and some Republicans closely allied with the White House have called for the memo’s release. Neither the Justice Department nor the FBI has reportedly seen the Nunes memo. The Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to open the document to other House lawmakers, but did not authorize release to the public.

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who viewed the classified materials Nunes relied upon in crafting his memo, wrote in a letter to Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that “those materials tell a very different story than the conspiracy theory concocted by Chairman Nunes and being repeated in the press.”

“Too many of our colleagues appear to be constructing their own version of history — completely unrelated to the facts as you and I understand them — based, at least in part, on this memorandum,” Nadler wrote. “Our members should have the benefit of access to the actual record without delay.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (R-Calif.) want social media companies to probe accounts that have been pushing the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag. The German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, which tracks Russian online influence operations, found Russia-linked accounts’ use of the hashtag spiking 233,000 percent in a 48-hour period last week. WikiLeaks offered a reward to anyone who could obtain and leak the memo.

In a letter today to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Feinstein requested the social media companies’ “urgent assistance” on recent “Russian efforts are intended to influence congressional action and undermine Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, which has already resulted in the indictments of two Trump campaign officials and guilty pleas from two others, who are both now cooperating with prosecutors.”

“It is critically important that the Special Counsel’s investigation be allowed to proceed without interference from inside or outside the United States,” they wrote. “That is why we seek your assistance in our efforts to counter Russia’s continuing efforts to manipulate public opinion and undermine American democracy and the rule of law.”

Schiff and Feinstein referred to Nunes’ memo as “misleading talking points” in a memo that “selectively references and distorts highly classified information.”

They noted that #ReleaseTheMemo was “the top trending hashtag among Twitter accounts believed to be operated by Kremlin-linked groups” and was being used “100 times more than any other hashtag” by accounts linked to Russian influence campaigns.

“If these reports are accurate, we are witnessing an ongoing attack by the Russian government through Kremlin-linked social media actors directly acting to intervene and influence our democratic process,” the lawmakers added. “This should be disconcerting to all Americans, but especially your companies as, once again, it appears the vast majority of their efforts are concentrated on your platforms. This latest example of Russian interference is in keeping with Moscow’s concerted, covert, and continuing campaign to manipulate American public opinion and erode trust in our law enforcement and intelligence institutions.”

Feinstein and Schiff asked the Twitter and Facebook chiefs to “conduct an in-depth forensic examination of this real-time activity on your platforms” to determine “whether and how many accounts linked to Russian influence operations are involved in this campaign, the frequency and volume of their postings on this topic, and how many legitimate Twitter and Facebook account holders have been exposed to this campaign.”

“Given the urgency of this matter,” they asked Dorsey and Zuckerberg for a “public report to Congress and the American public” by Jan. 26.

“In addition, we urge your companies to immediately take necessary steps to expose and deactivate accounts involved in this influence operation that violate your respective user policies,” they added.