Commentary

Graham Proposes Commission To Combat Foreign Social-Media Influence

The controversial subject of alleged foreign attempts to influence American society via social media may get its own long-term investigative commission in Congress, provided the proposal can garner enough bipartisan support.

That’s according to Politico, which first reported Sen. Lindsey Graham’s idea for a high-level, independent commission similar to the panel that investigated the 9/11 attacks.

Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, is currently looking to drum up support for the investigative panel on both sides of the aisle, including conferring with Democratic colleagues equally concerned that Russian interests may be influencing U.S. politics via new media. 

In addition to investigating possible foreign influence, the commission would draw up recommendations for legislation and rules to enhance awareness and security of social media. 

Politico quoted Graham as explaining the panel would also bring together “experts in national security and technology to sit down and advise Congress: What kind of legal infrastructure do we need that balances privacy and national security interests? It's going to be really hard for us to come up with a consensus.”

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In recent weeks, big platforms, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, have all admitted that foreign interests, including some tied to the Russian government, used their channels to distribute large numbers of ads and fake content during the 2016 election campaign.

As reported last week, Russian meddling in American public life via social media apparently went beyond merely stirring up partisan feelings online. It extended to agents provocateurs setting up “real-life” events, including political rallies and counter rallies.

According to one report, a Facebook group created by Russian operatives, BlackMattersUS, succeeded in attract 5,000 to 10,000 protesters to an anti-Trump rally in New York City on November 16, 2016, eight days after the election.

During testimony to Congress, Facebook’s representative, Colin Stretch, confirmed that as many as 126 million Americans may have seen ads on the social network that were paid for by entities associated with the Russian government or interests.

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