Two lawmakers are calling for Facebook and Twitter to immediately investigate allegations that Russian accounts engaged in a social media campaign aimed at undermining Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of the Trump campaign.
"If these reports are accurate, we are witnessing an ongoing attack by the Russian government through Kremlin-linked social media actors," Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) say in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. "This latest example of Russian interference is in keeping with Moscow's concerted, covert, and continuing campaign to manipulate public opinion and erode trust in our law enforcement and intelligence institutions."
The lawmakers' letter comes in response to reports last week that Kremlin-connected accounts promoted the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo as part of an attempt to pressure Congress to publicly release a Republican-authored memo. The four-page memo reportedly discusses surveillance "abuse" by officials investigating President Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign. Feinstein and Schiff call the memo "misleading," and say it "distorts highly classified information."
The Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund, which tracks Russian influence on social media, reported last week that "ReleaseTheMemo" was the top-trending Twitter hashtag promoted by Russia-linked accounts. But many conservative Twitter accounts are also using the hashtag ReleaseTheMemo, which could be contributing to its spread on the platform.
Observers have said that some Trump supporters believe the memo will undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
"It is critically important that the Special Counsel's investigation be allowed to proceed without interference from inside or outside the United States," Feinstein and Schiff write.
The lawmakers are asking Facebook and Twitter to investigate by Friday how many Russian-linked accounts, if any, were involved in the campaign. The lawmakers also want to know the extent of the Russian-linked accounts' activity, and how many users were exposed to the campaign.
Facebook said last year that material created by Russian agents, including at least 3,000 ads, may have reached 146 million users -- 126 million on Facebook and an additional 20 million on Instagram. Twitter has found 3,814 Russia-linked accounts that posted on the platform during the 2016 election.
A Twitter spokesperson said Tuesday that the company is "committed to addressing malicious activity on our platform."
"We look forward to working closely with Senator Feinstein and Congressman Schiff to address their questions," the spokesperson said.