Author: Zack Whittaker

Twitter now puts live broadcasts at the top of your timeline

Twitter will now put live streams and broadcasts started by accounts you follow at the top of your timeline, making it easier to see what they’re doing in realtime.

In a tweet, Twitter said that that the new feature will include breaking news, personalities and sports.

The social networking giant included the new feature in its iOS and Android apps, updated this week. Among the updates, Twitter said it’s now also supporting audio-only live broadcasts, as well as through its sister broadcast service Periscope.

Last month, Twitter discontinued its app for iOS 9 and lower versions, which according to Apple’s own data still harbors some 5 percent of all iPhone and iPad users.

Justice Dept. says social media giants may be ‘intentionally stifling’ free speech

The Justice Department has confirmed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expressed a “growing concern” that social media giants may be “hurting competition” and “intentionally stifling” free speech and expression.

The comments come as Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey gave testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, as lawmakers investigate foreign influence campaigns on their platforms.

Social media companies have been under the spotlight in recent years after threat actors, believed to be working closely with the Russian and Iranian governments, used disinformation spreading tactics to try to influence the outcome of the election.

“The Attorney General has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms,” said Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley in an email.

It’s not clear exactly if the Justice Department is pushing for regulation or actively investigating the platforms for issues relating to competition — or antitrust. Social media companies aren’t covered under US free speech laws — like the First Amendment — but have long said they support free speech and expression across their platforms, including for users in parts of the world where freedom of speech is more restrictive.

When reached, Facebook did not immediately have comment. Twitter declined to comment.

Facebook, Twitter: US intelligence could help us more in fighting election interference

Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has admitted that the social networking giant could have done more to prevent foreign interference on its platforms, but said that the government also needs to step up its intelligence sharing efforts.

The remarks are ahead of an open hearing at the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, where Sandberg and Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey will testify on foreign interference and election meddling on social media platforms. Google’s Larry Page was invited, but declined to attend.

“We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act,” said Sandberg in prepared remarks. “That’s on us.”

The hearing comes in the aftermath of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Social media companies have been increasingly under the spotlight after foreign actors, believed to be working for or closely to the Russian government, used disinformation spreading tactics to try to influence the outcome of the election, as well as in the run-up to the midterm elections later this year.

Both Facebook and Twitter have removed accounts and bots from their sites believed to be involved in spreading disinformation and false news. Google said last year that it found Russian meddling efforts on its platforms.

“We’re getting better at finding and combating our adversaries, from financially motivated troll farms to sophisticated military intelligence operations,” said Sandberg.

But Facebook’s second-in-command also said that the US government could do more to help companies understand the wider picture from Russian interference.

“We continue to monitor our service for abuse and share information with law enforcement and others in our industry about these threats,” she said. “Our understanding of overall Russian activity in 2016 is limited because we do not have access to the information or investigative tools that the U.S. government and this Committee have,” she said.

Later, Twitter’s Dorsey also said in his own statement: “The threat we face requires extensive partnership and collaboration with our government partners and industry peers,” adding: “We each possess information the other does not have, and the combined information is more powerful in combating these threats.”

Both Sandberg and Dorsey are subtly referring to classified information that the government has but private companies don’t get to see — information that is considered a state secret.

Tech companies have in recent years pushed for more access to knowledge that federal agencies have, not least to help protect against increasing cybersecurity threats and hostile nation state actors. The theory goes that the idea of sharing intelligence can help companies defend against the best resourced hackers. But efforts to introduce legislation has proven controversial because critics argue that in sharing threat information with the government private user data would also be collected and sent to US intelligence agencies for further investigation.

Instead, tech companies are now pushing for information from Homeland Security to better understand the threats they face — to independently fend off future attacks.

As reported, tech companies last month met in secret to discuss preparations to counter foreign manipulation on their platforms. But attendees, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google and Microsoft are said to have “left the meeting discouraged” that they received little insight from the government.

Google, Facebook, Twitter chiefs called back to Senate Intelligence Committee

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey and Facebook chief operations officer Sheryl Sandberg will testify in an open hearing at the Senate Intelligence Committee next week, the committee’s chairman has confirmed.

Larry Page, chief executive of Google parent company Alphabet, was also invited but has not confirmed his attendance, a committee spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) said in a release that the social media giants will be asked about their responses to foreign influence operations on their platforms in an open hearing on September 5.

It will be the second time the Senate Intelligence Committee, which oversees the government’s intelligence and surveillance efforts, will have called the companies to testify. But it will be the first time that senior leadership will attend — though, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg did attend a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in April.

It comes in the wake of Twitter and Facebook recently announcing the suspension of accounts from their platforms that they believe to be linked to Iranian and Russian political meddling. Social media companies have been increasingly under the spotlight in the past years following Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election with disinformation.

A Twitter spokesperson said the company didn’t yet have details to share on the committee’s prospective questions. TechCrunch also reached out to Google and Facebook for comment and will update when we hear back.