GOP Rep. Will Hurd Of Texas Outlines House Intel Meeting With Tech Giants

Nov 1, 2017
Originally published on November 1, 2017 11:36 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And now we're joined by Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which also heard from Facebook, Twitter and Google today. Welcome, Congressman.

WILL HURD: Thanks for having me on.

SHAPIRO: We're hearing many examples of Russian interference that goes far beyond the 2016 campaign. How concerned are you that even now, Russian-backed groups may be using social media to interfere in the U.S. in ways that have nothing to do with electoral politics?

HURD: Well, I am afraid because we have to remember. What are the Russians trying to do? This is a disinformation campaign. This is a covert action campaign. And the Russians' goal is to erode trust in our institutions, is to erode trust in our government, is to erode trust in our news, is to erode trust in our great online companies like the ones that were testifying today. That is their goal. And this is something that - they've protected these tactic, tools and techniques for a number of decades in Europe in other mediums. And now we're seeing that happen here. And so this is...

SHAPIRO: And do you believe the tech companies are doing enough to take the problem seriously and respond to it?

HURD: I think the tech companies recognize the problem and are working hard to solve this problem. We also - there's another issue here. You have political ads in new medium, and I think everybody would agree that the Federal Election Campaign Act, which was enacted in the '70s, should apply to all political ads, whether it's on broadcast, on print or in the online, digital space. That's separate from this covert action campaign.

And what we need to start doing is making sure that the federal government is working with these companies to help them refine and better understand how these Russian organizations are operating online and help expand the number of people that they're looking for. It's not just the Internet Research Association. There are probably a number of cutouts that the Russian intelligence organizations are using to propagate this covert action.

SHAPIRO: You're talking about working with tech companies. Some of your colleagues in Congress say the government needs to go farther and strictly regulate these companies. What do you think?

HURD: Well, as I've said, the rules in the legislation that already governs political advertising should govern political advertising in any medium. And you're going to probably be seeing conversations at FEC, FCC, FTC that - looking at ensuring that their rulemaking process, you know, accomplishes that.

SHAPIRO: That would address ads, but it would not address Facebook groups, retweets of fake news. It seems like it would be just one small slice of the problem.

HURD: Well, now you're starting to get into First Amendment issues. I think this is - the difficulty here is, you know, what is actually a attempt to influence somebody? I think there are some elements that are real easy. If we know an account associated with Russian intelligence that's being paid in Rubles, that should be discontinued. And all of the social media companies are looking at the tactics that the Russians used to propagate these messages. And so they're doing that.

And again, this is a - there's already a broad regulatory environment that's in place to govern political advertising. But the issue we also need to be looking at is the Foreign Agent Registration Act. This is something that I think over the next couple of months we're going to learn a whole lot about based on what happened to Mr. Manafort on Monday. But this is one area where we should be looking at - can Vladimir Putin buy an ad right now on your station telling people to call their member of Congress and say, we don't send arms to the Ukrainians?

SHAPIRO: I'm afraid we have to leave it there. Congressman Will Hurd, Republican of Texas, thank you very much for your time.

HURD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.