Instagram head to appear in US congressional hearing

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Adam Mosseri was appointed Instagram CEO in October after sales chief Adam Mosseri announced he was leaving the company

The new Instagram head, Adam Mosseri, will give evidence to US congress over allegations the photo-sharing service is rife with fake news and disinformation.

Mr Mosseri agreed to appear after California senator Kamala Harris called for him to appear.

The Californian has written to Donald Trump’s director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, who also called for Mr Mosseri to appear.

Mr Coats says Russia could have meddled in the US election and added that there were reports of human traffickers using the app to recruit prostitutes.

Political influence?

Criminal investigations by Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller have found that Russia may have sought to influence the 2016 US presidential election using fake news and fake accounts.

A congressional panel investigating the extent of Russian influence on the US election has subpoenaed the owners of hundreds of fake accounts and pages to appear before it on 12 December.

Facebook, Twitter and Google confirmed to the committee that they had offered to testify at a later date.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Adam Mosseri is a former editor of The New York Times

The head of the office of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, is also due to appear before the US Congress this week, as is the acting head of the Department of Justice.

The reports on human trafficking came as part of a wider investigation into ‘relentless sexual exploitation of minors by traffickers’ using Instagram’s services.

People trafficked for sex face harassment, fake profiles and even ‘straw voters’, who add them to election petitions when the subject is unpopular, it was reported.

‘Unethical network’

In addition to being briefed by the special counsel, Facebook has also been asked to provide information about how ‘fake news’ spread in the run-up to the US election.

Instagram’s founding chief executive Kevin Systrom is also due to appear before a group of US Congress members next week.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday in London, Mr Systrom said he and the Facebook team were completely focused on making sure the service stayed safe.

He added that he had not had any discussions with Mr Coats about the subject of fake news since he took over as Instagram CEO in October.

Mr Systrom has denied any possibility of selling the photo-sharing service, despite a reported $1bn (£740m) acquisition proposal from Facebook.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption California senator Kamala Harris said Adam Mosseri should appear before the Intelligence Committee

Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, has expressed concerns about Instagram’s ‘doubled user growth in the last year’.

“The last thing we need to do is to institutionalise it, provide new platforms for the same kind of deception, inauthenticity and propaganda,” he told the news website Axios, which reported the concerns about the social network’s growth.

Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, said social media companies were “a potent means of spreading fake news and foreign influence in our national discourse”.

The company’s head of international policy management, Nick Pickles, tweeted: “The conversation should focus on the role social media plays in bringing different perspectives to the table and creating communities.

“Lies and distortions of the truth have too often been deployed against this cause. We want to use the power of social media to drive a more rational debate.”

Although Facebook denies allegations it misled the public about the data protection implications of its ownership of Whatsapp, it is nevertheless trying to improve its transparency.

In June, it launched two new search tools.

In September, it made the public posting history of politicians and candidates available to the public.

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