The top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee is seeking answers from three major tech and social media companies about whether Russia sought to influence the contentious debate over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., sent a list of three questions to the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, asking whether they discovered any foreign influence campaigns related to Kavanaugh and his accusers.
“As Americans discuss critical issues — including the nomination, allegations of sexual assault, and victim’s rights — using your platforms, I urge you protect our nation from foreign agents sowing discord and promoting tribalism,” Pallone wrote.
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Pallone’s request came in response to a Washington Post report detailing how some Facebook groups had amassed large followings in support of one topic, then later changed their name to support a different topic.
In one example, a Facebook group that was created more than four years ago sought to defend actor Bill Cosby against sexual assault charges. It later turned its focus to President Trump’s proposed “Space Force.” In recent weeks the group changed its name to “Justice for Justice Kavanaugh!!!”
Facebook group owners can rename or change the focus of their group while keeping their followers. The content pushed out by the groups would still appear in followers’ daily feeds, though followers have the ability to leave the group at any time.
The Washington Post report did not put blame on Russia for the groups changing their focus, but Pallone said there’s a potential for foreign agents to use it to their advantage.
“Efforts related to these allegations involving Judge Kavanaugh are particularly relevant because they appear to raise political and social tensions in ways similar to issues previously exploited,” he wrote.
Pallone requested the technology and social media executives respond to his questions by Oct. 18.
[Also read: Facebook reveals security breach affecting 50 million users]