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Politics

Democrats urge Facebook and Twitter to probe Russian bots

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff have asked the companies to investigate Russian involvement in the #ReleaseTheMemo social media campaign.

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Facebook and Twitter are facing more congressional inquiry.

Screenshot by CNET

Top Democrats wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Tuesday, urging an investigation following reports of Kremlin-linked activity around the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign on social media. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, both of California, submitted a letter to the two companies. 

"If these reports are accurate, we are witnessing an ongoing attack by the Russian government through Kremlin-linked social media actors directly acting to intervene and influence our democratic process," the letter states. "This should be disconcerting to all Americans, but especially your companies as, once again, it appears the vast majority of their efforts are concentrated on your platforms. This latest example of Russian interference is in keeping with Moscow's concerted, covert, and continuing campaign to manipulate American public opinion and erode trust in our law enforcement and intelligence institutions."

The memo in question was written by the House Intelligence Committee about alleged surveillance abuses. It alleges misconduct by federal officials in the investigation of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign's possible ties with Russia. Last week, the House Intelligence Committee voted to allow members of the House of Representatives to view the memo, which led some House members to argue for its public release. A related hashtag soon emerged and began trending on social media.

Schiff, who is on the House Intelligence Committee, has characterized the memo as misleading and inaccurate.

Feinstein and Schiff cite research by The Alliance for Securing Democracy, which indicates significant Russian activity on the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo. The letter requests an "in-depth forensic examination" of activity on the social media platforms to determine whether and how many accounts linked to Russian influence were involved, the frequency and volume of posts or tweets, and the possible number of legitimate Facebook and Twitter users exposed to the accounts.

Feinstein and Schiff requested Twitter's and Facebook's findings be reported to Congress on Friday.

Last week, Twitter said it would notify more than 600,000 users in the US who saw tweets from Russian-linked accounts during the 2016 election.   

Facebook and Twitter did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.