Schiff said there are representatives and senators from both parties interested in legislation that would regulate political-ad disclosures on social media. He also said that, down the road, it will be necessary for the intelligence community to work closely with tech companies to prevent any future attacks on our country's democratic process.
"When the intelligence community gathers information that a foreign adversary is exploiting the use of these platforms in a clandestine way to influence our elections," he said, "it should have a mechanism like we use in the counterterrorism context to share that information with the technology companies." Schiff said that ultimately, these joint efforts between the government and tech firms will be crucial to prepare for any upcoming elections.
"When the intelligence community gathers information that a foreign adversary is exploiting the use of these platforms in a clandestine way to influence our elections, it should have a mechanism like we use in the counterterrorism context to share that information with the technology companies."
He said that, as part of the Intelligence Committee hearings, he's asked Facebook, Twitter and Google to create a joint report on how Russia played their systems, so that the committee can be fully informed before making any recommendations that might affect how they do business. "Although the companies have yet to commit to such a report," he said, "it is my hope that they will do so."
If a bill like the Honest Ads Act does become law, tech companies could be prone to government fines if they don't follow set regulations. That would be akin to when US wireless carriers violate consumer disclosures and the FCC has to step in, often slapping them with hundreds of millions of dollars in fines.
What's clear is that the government isn't interested in regulating your tweets or Facebook posts about how much you love or hate Donald Trump. (That would be a clear violation of the First Amendment.) Instead, the committee simply intends to keep a better eye on the political ads that you see on social media, to ensure that foreign agents aren't interfering in our elections. This doesn't mean you, the user, can be out there promoting hate speech on your timeline, since Twitter or Facebook might take it upon themselves to ban you. (Unless you're the president of the United States, of course.)
Levinson said that, generally speaking and no matter the reason, the US government shouldn't try to regulate Facebook, Twitter, Google or any other social media company because "they have no idea what they're talking about" or how the internet works. If anything, he said, these tech giants should be working harder on self-regulating, which would mean depending less on algorithms and more on humans.
For Levinson, the ideal system to fight bots promoting sketchy political ads and fake news would be to identify fake, ill-minded accounts more quickly and to cancel them immediately. He also said there needs to be a better way to distinguish fake news from real articles or a post from people simply expressing their opinion -- even if certain people don't agree with it. In order for that to happen and be successful, though, Levinson said algorithms from Facebook and Twitter need to experience some trial and error before they can be perfected. That's why you sometimes see bogus content slip through the cracks.