US House chairman asks CEOs about Russia’s use of social media to affect energy

US House of Representatives Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) asked the chief executives of Facebook, Twitter Inc., and Alphabet Inc. for documents relating to Russian entities’ purchases of advertising against hydraulic fracturing and fossil fuels.

US House of Representatives Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) asked the chief executives of Facebook, Twitter Inc., and Alphabet Inc. for documents relating to Russian entities’ purchases of advertising against hydraulic fracturing and fossil fuels.

“In light of Facebook’s disclosure of over $100,000 in social media advertising associated with Russian accounts focused on the disruption and influence of US politics through social media, it is likely that Russia undertook a similar effort using social media to influence the US energy market,” Smith said in a Sept. 26 letter to Facebook Founder and Chief Executive Mark E. Zuckerberg in Menlo Park, Calif.

“Social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, have the ability to serve as an effective propaganda arm conveying specific messages to geographically targeted audiences,” Smith said. “The committee is concerned that divisive social and political messages conveyed through social media have negatively affected certain energy sectors, which can depress research and development in the fossil-fuel sector and the expanding potential for natural gas.”

Russia’s meddling in the US energy market has been well documented, Smith said. “US presidential candidates, European officials, and the US intelligence community have all publicly noted evidence of Russia and its government corporations funding a covert antifracing campaign to suppress the widespread adoption of fracing in Europe and the US—all in an effort to safeguard the influence of the Russian oil and gas sector,” he said.

The letter asked Zuckerberg and Facebook to supply the committee by Oct. 10 all documents and information from January 2010 to the present referring or relating to:

• Any Russian-based or funded entity involvement in the US energy market detected on your social media platform.

• The source of advertisements on Facebook related to the energy industry, both renewable and nonrenewable, including but not limited to a list of Russian-based or funded companies or other entities purchasing advertising on Facebook.

• The source of advertisements on Facebook advocating for “so-called green initiatives.”

Smith sent similar letters to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in San Francisco and Alphabet CEO Lawrence E. Page in Mountain View, Calif.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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