Representatives from a host of the biggest US tech companies, including Facebook and Twitter met for a private meeting on Friday August 24 to share their tactics in preparation for the upcoming 2018 midterm elections. The previous week, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, invited employees from a dozen companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Snapchat, to gather at Twitter’s headquarters in downtown San Francisco, according to an email obtained by BuzzFeed News.
“As I’ve mentioned to several of you over the last few weeks, we have been looking to schedule a follow-on discussion to our industry conversation about information operations, election protection, and the work we are all doing to tackle these challenges,” Gleicher wrote.
The meeting, the Facebook official wrote, had a three-part agenda:
- each company will present the work they’ve been doing to counter information operations;
- there will be a discussion period for problems each company faces; and
- a talk about whether such a meeting should become a regular occurrence.
Around 10 of the companies who participated in the August 24th meeting were present at a similar powwow attended by US intelligence officials. Held at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California in May, the summit included a top official from the Department of Homeland Security, as well as a representative of the FBI’s newly formed “foreign influence” task force.
Social media companies have scrambled to reassure the US government that their platforms cannot be abused, after accusations of Russian meddling emerged in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.
As a result, tech giants have launched a crusade against so-called “Russian bots” and other undesirables detected on their platforms, in some cases deleting thousands of accounts – some of which have since been shown to be owned by legitimate users.
Throughout 2018 and even prior, Facebook, Google and Twitter have cracked down on “hate speech” and “fake news,” which in Facebook’s case is determined in partnership with the NATO-funded Atlantic Council. The bans and suspensions that have followed have been slammed by critics as thinly veiled censorship, with tech giants seemingly using the Russian meddling hysteria to target undesirable political speech.
The 2018 controversial bans have not gone unnoticed in the White House. In a tweet posted on the day of the secret meeting, President Donald Trump raised alarm over what he described as “millions” of people being silenced by tech companies. “People have to figure out what is real, and what is not, without censorship!” he wrote.
Stop letting them sensor your supporters! Mainstream media has been against you since the beginning! #FreeAlexJones #freemilo #freerogerstone #FreeGavin #stopbigbrothercensorship! They are desperate to silence your support! pic.twitter.com/t2J9XDo8cK
— Amber Nicole (@FindingAnswers) August 11, 2018
#BoycottFaceBook #ImpeachMarkZuckerberg #Trump #FreeAlexJones
“WE THE PEOPLE” of the United States of America, Want a Congressional Hearing, with #MarkZuckergerg #AlexJones #JackDorsey #NoahGlass #BizStone #EvanWilliams #OmidKordestani #NedSegal
BEFORE MID_TERM ELECTIONS !! pic.twitter.com/PLsTSOXWIV
— Alejandro Garcia (@AlexGarciaPinto) August 24, 2018
— Jerry Lee Colbert (@jerryleecolbert) August 11, 2018