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Watch Live: Social Media Lawyers Explain To Politicians How 0.004% Of Traffic Swung The Election

Nearly two months after Facebook first confirmed that it had identified some 3,000 paid posts that had been clandestinely financed by purported Russia-linked troll farms, the companys' general counsel, Colin Stretch, and his counterparts at Twitter and Google, are heading down to the Hart Senate Office Building for a long-awaited hearing hosted by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism. According to the description on the committee's website, the hearing is meant to help lawmakers and the companies “find solutions” that will allow them to filter out attempts by foreign powers like Russia to influence US elections.

South Carolina Senator and former presidential candidate Lindsey Graham will preside over the hearings, which are expected to begin at 2:30 ET.

Watch the hearing live below;

By late Monday night, the contents of the prepared testimony for all three companies had already leaked to the press. And for anybody who’s been following the Russian interference narrative, the testimony contains few surprises.

As we reported yesterday, Facebook plans to testify that Russia’s $100,000 in ad spending may have helped their posts be seen by as many as 126 million people over more than two years (of course, some of this ads ran after the election).

Of course, while the 126 million headline number may appear astonishingly large - without context it appears to suggest that the Russian disinformation campaign achieved one of the highest marketing IRRs in human history - in context, it’s actually negligible.

That’s because Americans were fed a total of 33 trillion stories by Facebook via their news feeds, meaning the tainted Russia content represents just 0.004% of total stories circulated on Facebook’s platform.

Meanwhile, Google’s director of law enforcement and information security is preparing to testify that he has found 18 English-language channels with 1,108 videos uploaded, totaling about 43 hours of content, that originated with Russian operatives.

The company also found that two accounts linked to the Russian troll farm spent a total of $4,700 on search and display ads during the 2016 election cycle.

Meanwhile, Twitter is preparing to tell Congress this week that Russia-linked accounts "generated approximately 1.4 million automated, election-related tweets, which collectively received approximately 288 million impressions" between Sept. 1 and Nov. 15, 2016.

At one point in the testimony, Twitter's acting general counsel, Sean Edgett, wrote that the company "identified 36,746 accounts that generated automated, election-related content and had at least one of the characteristics we used to associate an account with Russia,” Business Insider reported.

That is far higher than the number of Russia-linked accounts Twitter initially disclosed to the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door interview last month. Still, like Facebook, Twitter is preparing to emphasize in its prepared remarks that the nearly 37,000 accounts represented "1/100th of a percent (0.012%) of the total accounts on Twitter at the time." Meanwhile, roughly 9% of the tweets from the 2,752 IRA-linked accounts were election-related, Twitter said, and more than 47% of those tweets were automated.

Of course, Democratic lawmakers who have pushed this latest narrative have been unfazed by these numbers. Instead, they've maintained that any evidence of "interference" is too much. And while Facebook said yesterday that is was devising sophisticated tools to completely filter out disingenuous posts, it might be more effective if they just blocked people with their browser language set to Russian from paying for ads - or posting anything, really - on their platforms.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of today's hearing is that trio of Silicon Valley lawyers will get to do it all again tomorrow during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Ranking member Sen. Mark Warner - who recently introduced a law that would require social media companies to expand ad-related disclosures - has tweeted a series of questions he intends to ask:

I question whether Russia’s election interference came entirely from 1 troll farm in St Petersburg. Tech firms should help us find the truth https://t.co/jrdK3NHtI8

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner)

 

Tomorrow some of America’s largest tech companies will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Here’s what I want know:

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner)

 

2. How susceptible are these platforms to future disinformation campaigns waged by a small group of foreign hackers, trolls & bots?

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner)

 

1. How did Russia use social media and search platforms to influence the 2016 election? The American people deserve a full explanation.

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner)

 

3. How do they plan to work with Congress to make sure this doesn’t happen again? Specifically on legislation like the

Act.

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner)