In a heated House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday investigating charges of anti-conservative bias by Facebook, Google, and Twitter, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) queried representatives of those platforms about whether they have found any evidence that countries other than Russia — namely China and N. Korea — had attempted to interfere in U.S. elections in 2016. The individuals representing the Big Three social media platforms couldn’t — or wouldn’t — say.
Gohmert asked, “You have been asked specifically about Russian use of your platforms. But did you ever find any indication of use of your platform utilized by the Chinese, North Korea, or any other foreign country, intelligence, or agency of that country?”
Monika Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook, attempted to evade the question. “I would note, congressman, that we are not in N. Korea or China,” she said, adding that Facebook has a “robust” security team.
Gohmert tried asking his question again. “We have foreign governments, intelligence agencies in this country. It seems to me you were each a little bit vague about ‘Oh yes, we found hundreds,’ or whatever, I’m asking specifically: were any of those other countries besides Russia that were using your platform inappropriately? It should be a yes or no.”
“I don’t have the details,” Bickert replied. “I know we definitely work to detect and repel attacks — ”
“I know that,” Gohmert interrupted, “but were any of them foreign entities other than Russia?”
“I can certainly follow up with you on that,” she said.
“So you don’t know?” Gohmert asked. “You sure seemed anxious to answer the Democrats’ questions about Russia influence. And you don’t really know of all the people — all of the groups that inappropriately used your platform — you don’t know which were Russians and which were other foreign entities?”
“Congressman, we certainly have seen attacks from people other than Russians,” she said. “As far as the details of from whom those attacks have come I would have to have my team follow up with you on that.”
“So you don’t know about China? You’re sure about Russia but you don’t even know about China?” he asked. Bickert again promised to follow up at a later date.
“So you came prepared to help the Democrats establish about Russia but you can’t point out any other country? Is that right?” he persisted. Bickert again demurred.
Next Gohmert asked the same question of Juniper Downs, global head of public policy and government relations at Google.
“Our security team is trained to protect our services from foreign –” Downs began.
After several back-and-forths, Downs admitted, “The investigation we conducted was specific to Russian interference in the 2016 election.”
“You don’t know if China did or not?” Gohmert shot back?
She replied, “My guess would be that our security team has detected attempts at breaching our security from other foreign governments as well, but that information is held confidentially, even internally so –”
“So you’re here to guess,” he interrupted. “So you’re only here to condemn the Russians. Thank you.”
“How about you, Mr. Pickles? Are you prepared to identify any other foreign countries, or just here to help the Democrats blast Russia after 70 years of Russia helping Democrats?”
Nick Pickles, senior strategist of public policy at Twitter, said, “Well I’m certainly happy to help the committee and yourself understand our work to defend elections — ”
“I understand that,” Gohmert said, “but did you find any other countries besides Russia that inappropriately used Twitter? ”
After several failed attempts by Gohmert to get a straight answer, Pickles said, “So I’m happy to follow up on that specific question — ”
“But you did not come prepared to answer any question about any other country but Russia? Is that correct?” Gohmert asked. “You answered the question about Russia. You can’t answer about China? Yes or no?”
Again, Pickles gave a non-answer.
“You’re very good at dodging and refusing to answer the question,” Gohmert concluded.
While the attempts by the Russians to interfere in U.S. elections using social media platforms largely failed (despite unhinged lamentations by Democrats that the Russians stole the election from Hillary Clinton), it’s still important to fully investigate the attempted infiltration to ensure the integrity of future elections. That investigation should most certainly include other foreign actors who might want to sway the electorate and sow dissension in the U.S. It’s beyond dispute that Chinese hackers are a threat to our national security, so it’s certainly conceivable that they would attempt to use social media in their protected cyber war on the U.S.
Michael Daniel, cybersecurity coordinator at the National Security Council during the Obama administration, told a Senate panel in June: “Our adversaries are also going to get better at integrating their cyber-capabilities with other aspects of their national power.” He explained the Chinese are not far behind the Russians. “The Russians and other actors, including China, Iran, North Korea, criminal organizations, terrorist organizations, hacktivists, all of them are discovering the cyberspace is a great place to try to advance their agenda. We are seeing a proliferation of capabilities across the globe.”
You’d think there would be just a tiny bit of curiosity on the part of Democrats about what some of our other enemies are up to in terms of cyber/social media warfare, but the Russia investigation has focused almost exclusively on the topic on Russia — to the exclusion of other bad actors on the world scene. Democrats — and the Democrat-aligned media — have chosen to ignore threats from anywhere but Russia. They’re so focused on Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia that they’ve lost sight of what’s important: securing our elections.
And it sounds like the Democrats’ incuriosity about China et al. has spread to Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Time to start asking more questions.
Watch the exchange below beginning at around the 1:10 mark:
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