The Latest: Twitter CEO says 'shadow ban' not impartial

The Latest on executives from social media companies and their appearances before Congress (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

Lawmakers are sparring over whether a now-reversed change to auto-suggestions on Twitter unfairly hurt Democrats or Republicans more.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey isn't saying which, but says he'll follow up.

The storm over "shadow banning " of Republicans on Twitter broke out in July after Vice News reported that some politicians didn't show up in a drop-down menu of automatically suggested searches, even when typing in the politicians' names.

Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle says at a House hearing that those claims have no merit.

Dorsey had explained the hidden drop-down searches affected 600,000 accounts based on the activity of those accounts followers. Twitter fixed the issue in late July.

Under further questioning by Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton, Dorsey said he agreed the impact along partisan lines "was not impartial."


3:20 p.m.

A House hearing about social media censorship was briefly interrupted as a protester stood up and yelled at Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. A Republican congressman drowned her out using his auctioneering skills.

A woman stood up and started loudly yelling at Dorsey, complaining about bias and publicly pleading President Donald Trump to help.

As staff appeared to look for security to drag her out, Missouri Rep. Billy Long started speaking in the rapid pace of an auctioneer, pretending to auction something off.

Long, who owned an auctioneering company, finished to applause from his colleagues just as security reached the woman and took her out of the room.

The GOP-led House Energy and Commerce Committee is examining whether Twitter has censored conservatives.


2:50 p.m.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says Twitter "can't place the burden" on victims when it comes to reporting abuse on the service.

He says Twitter is committed to developing automated tools that would go all the way to deleting content even without an actual person making a complaint — which is the only way it takes down content now.

Facebook already removes some objectionable content before people report it. But Twitter is behind in this regard.

Using artificial intelligence in this way is still difficult and in the early stages. It works well for some things — for example images of child porn or beheadings. But when it comes to understanding the subtleties of language and when it's hate speech or abuse, machines still have a lot to learn.

Dorsey is appearing before a House committee.


2:40 p.m.

A congressional hearing on Twitter's "transparency and accountability" is kicking off with partisan rancor.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing was prompted by claims of censorship and suppression from conservatives.

The chairman, GOP Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, is citing recent complaints that Twitter had limited the visibility of prominent Republicans when searched on Twitter.

But the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, says the hearing appears to be "just one more mechanism" for Republicans to "raise money and generate outrage."

Pallone says claims of conservative suppression are "conspiracy theories" and he criticizing President Donald Trump for using Twitter to "bully and belittle people."

Pallone also is chiding Twitter for not doing enough to prevent the spread of propaganda and false information and for "chasing the latest headline" when it comes to enforcing rules.


1:10 p.m.

The Justice Department says it's convening a meeting later this month to discuss concerns that social media companies may be hurting competition and "intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms."

The statement comes as Facebook and Twitter executives appeared at congressional hearings Wednesday. Both companies pledged to better protect their social media platforms in the 2018 elections and beyond.

Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley says Attorney General Jeff Session will meet with a number of state attorneys general later this month to discuss the department's concerns.

Some Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have pushed the idea that Twitter is "shadow banning" some in the GOP because of the ways search results have appeared. Twitter denies that's happening.


11:10 a.m.

Google has skipped a Senate intelligence hearing on social media companies, and a lawmaker says it's "maybe because they're arrogant."

Sen. Marco Rubio is also citing questions raised in a new report by a watchdog group that had success buying ads while posing as Russia's Internet Research Agency. That's the propaganda machine accused of interfering in the 2016 U.S. election.

The watchdog group used the Russia's agency tax ID, bought ads in rubles and pointed to IRA-affiliated websites, and the report said Google approved the ads as soon as within 24 hours.

Rubio says he's sure that Google executives "don't want to be here to answer these questions."

Google offered to send its chief legal officer, but the committee issued specific invitations to Larry Page, CEO of Google parent Alphabet, and to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.


10:45 a.m.

Facebook and Twitter executives say they agree with Congress that strengthening privacy protections for their users is a "national security priority."

Critics have charged that the companies' business models, which are built on offering a free service and making money from advertising targeted using personal data, can conflict with efforts to oppose those who would abuse their systems.

The Senate intelligence committee is holding a hearing on social media and elections.

Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden says personal data is now the "weapon of choice" of political influence campaigns.


10:40 a.m.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has told Congress that Twitter has created better tools and stronger policies for combating election interference. He says Twitter has learned from the 2016 elections and from other elections around the world.

But he also tells the Senate intelligence committee that "we all have to think a lot bigger, and decades past today."

The committee is holding a hearing on social media and elections.


10:35 a.m.

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has made a surprise appearance outside the Senate intelligence committee's hearing with Facebook and Twitter executives, and he tells reporters that he's there to "face my accusers."

The Infowars host was temporarily suspended from Twitter and Facebook last month. He says the "real election meddling" is the silencing of conservatives on social media.

The companies deny that's happening.


10:05 a.m.

Facebook's No. 2 executive has told a Senate committee that Facebook has made progress in addressing the issue of meddling by foreign interests in U.S. elections. But Sheryl Sandberg also says security efforts to combat such threats are never finished.

She tells the Senate intelligence committee that Facebook is "more determined" than adversaries seeking to interfere in American democracy. Sandberg says Facebook is working with outside experts, law enforcement and government, and she acknowledges that Facebook doesn't always have the expertise to determine the source of such threats.

Sandberg says "we are more determined than our opponents and we will keep fighting." She calls the fight an "arms race," as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has in the past.


9:58 a.m.

The Senate intelligence committee is holding a hearing on what it calls social media "influence operations" as the November elections near.

And while executives from Facebook and Twitter are testifying, there's an empty chair in place for Google's parent Alphabet, which has refused to send its top executive.

And committee leaders aren't happy about that.

The committee chairman — Sen. Richard Burr — is praising the companies for what they've done so far. But the North Carolina Republican says threats from countries beyond Russia aren't going away.

He notes that an outside security company had a large role in identifying the most recent threat the companies have disclosed. This was an attempt by Iran to meddle with politics using social media.


12:15 a.m.

Representatives from two leading social media companies are defending their efforts to crack down on foreign attempts at online meddling during this U.S. election year.

Twitter's CEO and Facebook's No. 2 executive are appearing before the Senate's intelligence committee to discuss foreign interference.

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg says in prepared remarks that Facebook is addressing the problem but remains slow in spotting it. Sandberg says Facebook's overall understanding of Russian activity in 2016 is limited because it doesn't have access to the U.S. government's information or investigative tools.

In a separate hearing before a House committee, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is expected to hear from Republicans who claim Twitter shows evidence of bias against conservatives. Dorsey says in his prepared remarks that Twitter doesn't use political ideology to make decisions.