While US tech giants claim that Russia tried to undermine last year's presidential election, with Twitter banning ads from RT and Sputnik, and Facebook talking about "Russian disinformation" spread on its platform with the aim to sow discord and division among the US electorate, political analyst Jeanne Zaino believes that the situation is far from simple and that there are still many questions that the internet companies have to clarify.
Sputnik: What do you think of Facebook's upcoming testimony, considering that the number of posts allegedly linked to Russia account for less than 1 percent of all Facebook posts?
Jeanne Zaino: Yeah, I think, you know, people are waiting almost with bated breath to hear what Facebook has to say, and not just Facebook. It's the other tech companies that are going before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee today and then the Senate and the House Intelligence Committees on Wednesday. And I think there are several questions that senators and representatives want to ask Facebook, and Google, and Twitter: Are the ads really the biggest problem? When did you begin the investigation?… It's not just the scope, it's the content and it's how much they knew and when. So, there are several questions that we have to get to the bottom of.
Sputnik: Sputnik has been banned on Twitter, and we have not even advertised, so…
Jeanne Zaino: You know this is a huge, huge question, and I think the technology companies are struggling with it. But I have a real concern about the technology companies. They have not been forthcoming and they are now, you know, coming out late because of the public outcry. And they are taking steps that they think will show that they are on top of this. And I think we are going to find if there is any really digging deep here, that they knew much of what was going on and there was not this human cry until there was this public outrage.
Sputnik: What is the general public in America feeling about all this now? Are the American people tired of this consistent media attention with regard to Russian meddling in the American presidential campaign from last year? Or do they still want to hear more about it?
Jeanne Zaino: It's interesting. I think the media wants to discuss it. I do think if you get into Middle America, there is not as much of an uproar in terms of this issue. I think they want to focus on jobs, the economy, taxes, migration, security, and they feel frustrated because, you know, one of the things that again I think most people know intuitively is that there is propaganda out there. And the fact that propaganda came through Facebook is no surprise I think to most Americans. So, there has been that human cry, but of course it is charged by the fact that most people did not think that Donald Trump was going to win the election. And it's interesting: Had Hillary Clinton won, we wouldn't have this focus on this issue, and I think that's where the president is right to say there has been something, you know, what he might describe as a witch hunt, I'm not sure I agree with that statement, but there has been a lot of focus on this because he won and he did win fairly because let's not forget there has been absolutely no evidence that there was tampering with the election, that any votes were bought or sold, or anything like that.
The only charge has been that there may have been this "collusion" with the campaign that's still not even been proven. So I think to your point the American public would like to move on, I don't think they are going to do it anytime soon because Congress is gearing up for more investigations into this, and they are going to start regulating in this arena.
And to your earlier point, I want to underscore that the tech giants, you know, whether it is Google, or Twitter, Facebook and so on, they have been out there earning money based on these advertisements. And we can't forget that's what they're there to do is to earn money. And so it has not been a one-way street. And we need to get to the bottom of that as they go before Congress, they need to be open and transparent about what they did, and how much they knew and when you knew it, because there are suggestions that they knew more earlier on than they have let on, so far.