Facebook is #98 on the Fortune 500 list, #8 on our World’s Most Admired list, and #6 on our Fastest Growing Companies list. But it has recently catapulted to #1 on the list of companies sitting squarely in the political crosshairs.
Rep. Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, took aim at the company yesterday, calling on it to testify about Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. That followed a Friday report in The Wall Street Journal that Facebook has given special counsel Robert Mueller detailed records about Russian ad purchases made during the election that go beyond what the company has shared with Congress.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” said Schiff, who said he was “distressed that it has taken us this long to be informed that the Russians had paid for at least $100,000 of ads designed to try to influence our electoral process.” Facebook and other Internet firms “need to be fully forthcoming… I think, frankly, they need to come and testify before Congress because there’s a lot we need to know about this.”
The anti-Facebook flak started earlier last week with BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith penning a piece about the “bad new politics of big tech.” Mike Allen, whose daily newsletter is one of the best barometers of the zeitgeist in Washington, summed it up neatly on Sunday. Once the darling of both investors and users, Allen said, Facebook is now under fire from four different directions:
—Politicians, who fear it enabled corrupt actors to influence the election;
—Media companies, who fear it is destroying their business;
—The intelligence community, which worries it provides a platform for mischief by terrorists, Russia, and China;
—And Facebook fans, who are worried about the use of their data, and the quality of Facebook’s news algorithms.
Not clear where all this will lead, but it won’t be going away soon. All four concerns above are likely to increase in the weeks and months ahead.
Indeed, you can expect to hear more this week. UK Prime Minister Theresa May said Sunday she plans to confront U.S. tech companies during her visit to the UN General Assembly, which starts in New York tomorrow.
“One of the issues that we really need to be addressing—and I’ll be raising this when I’m at the United Nations—is the question of the use of the internet by terrorists for terror planning, but also using it for the spread of extremism, of hatred, of propaganda,” May said in a Sunday interview on ABC. Asked if Google and Facebook were doing enough to stop terror, the PM replied: “We’re talking to them about doing more.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres will be joining Fortune and 125 top CEOs for dinner next Monday, after the end of the UN’s deliberations, as part of The Fortune/TIME CEO Initiative. You can learn more about the initiative here.
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sparked a flurry of speculation that the U.S. may not pull out of the Paris Climate Accord after all, telling CBS’s Face the Nation that it could stay in “under the right conditions.” National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster also talked up the possibility re-entering the pact at a later date. However, The Wall Street Journal overnight cited officials close to Gary Cohn that the administration’s basic stance hasn’t changed. Quite how far this simply reflects the need to make conciliatory noises ahead of the UN General Assembly, where others will be lining up to castigate the U.S. for its withdrawal, is unclear. Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
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Summaries by Geoffrey Smith; firstname.lastname@example.org