Senate Panel Pushes For Timelier Response To Election Meddling

A U.S. Senate panel pushed for a timelier response from Capitol Hill to widespread election meddling attempts earlier this week, with Republican Chairman Richard Burr leading the move. The Wednesday hearing was held several weeks after Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat at the Senate Intelligence Committee, started circulating a paper on possible options stateside lawmakers could explore in order to curb big tech in the country, proposing a wide variety of different measures aimed toward improving user privacy and combating the online spread of misinformation, among other issues.

The hearing lasted for some two hours and led to little optimistic conclusions, with the think tank assembled by the legislative panel suggesting election interference is a problem that may not be fully avoidable at any point in the future. A similar sentiment was also expressed by Facebook earlier this week as part of the company's disclosure of another coordinated misinformation campaign that it discovered on its platforms, stating that the initiative was aimed at influencing the outcome of this year's mid-terms taking place on November 6. Foreign actors went as far as to organize protests throughout the U.S. on both sides of the political spectrum, presumably as part of an attempt to polarize the American public in the run-up to this year's most important happening in politics.

While the technology and techniques meant to curb such malicious activities are always evolving, so are the actors behind them coming up with new ways to hide their identities and true purpose, Facebook said, with an official from data insight company Graphika largely reiterating that statement at this week's Senate panel hearing. Some reliable methods of identifying bot accounts spreading misinformation have still been applicable since large-scale efforts to eliminate them started in late 2016, with one of them being looking at the average number of daily posts. According to Graphika CEO John Kelly, bot accounts produce between 25 to 30 times more social media content than actual humans. While the latest hearing will be followed by other such gatherings, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the 2016 presidential election continues; to date, the 73-year-old indicted 25 individuals and three companies from Russia over attempts to interfere with the U.S. democratic process.

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