Social Media

Zuckerberg: Facebook in ‘arms race’ with Russia

Washington: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has told US senators his company is in a constant battle with Russian operators seeking to exploit the social network. “This is an arms race. They’re going to keep getting better,” he said, according to a BBC News report. Zuckerberg was answering questions in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data collection scandal.

He also revealed Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, had interviewed Facebook staff.

Zuckerberg said he has not been among those interviewed by Mueller’s office. But he added: “Our work with the special counsel is confidential and I want to make sure that in an open session I’m not revealing something that’s confidential.”

In February, Mr Mueller’s office charged 13 Russians with interference in the 2016 election, along with three Russian companies. One was the Internet Research Agency, sometimes referred to as a “Russian troll farm”, which the indictment said had a “strategic goal to sow discord in the US political system”. Zuckerberg said the company was now developing new tools to identify fake accounts. “There are people in Russia whose job it is to try to exploit our systems and other internet systems and other systems as well. We need to invest in getting better at this too.”

The Facebook chief fended off questions from senators about how the social network might be regulated more closely. Senator John Kennedy warned him: “I don’t want to have to vote to regulate Facebook. But by God, I will. That depends on you… Your user agreement sucks.” When pressed, the 33-year-old billionaire tech titan said he would welcome regulation, if it was the “right regulation,” though he avoided specifics.

He was appearing in front of a joint session of several US senate committees, after it was revealed in recent weeks that about 87 million people had their profile information accessed by marketing firm Cambridge Analytica. By the first break in proceedings, Facebook’s share price had risen by almost 5%, as markets reacted favourably to Zuckerberg’s performance, increasing his net worth by an estimated $3bn.

The company is best known for its association with Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, and has claimed it played “an integral part” in Trump’s victory. But it says none of the data involved in the recent scandal was used to help the Trump campaign.

The news that a personality quiz developed by an academic, Aleksandr Kogan, had collected data not just from the people who used it but also from their Facebook friends was revealed by newspaper investigations. Kogan then sold the data to Cambridge Analytica. Both companies lay the blame on Kogan. Facebook says that although users gave permission to Kogan’s app to collect their information, selling it on was against the terms of service.

Cambridge Analytica, meanwhile, claims it did not know the information had been obtained improperly. During Zuckerberg’s appearance, the firm tweeted it was “advising” news media through its lawyers about coverage.

Both companies also say they moved to have the data deleted once they learned of the problem in 2015. Hours ahead of the congressional hearing, Facebook also revealed that private messages from some 1,500 users were included in the data collection.


Russia probe: Trump willing to talk to Mueller under oath

Washington: President Donald Trump today said he was willing to talk under oath to special counsel Robert Mueller who is probing the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Trump’s opponents allege that the Russian interference helped him win the polls. But he denies any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

Mueller, the former FBI director, has interviewed several members of the Trump campaign, Trump’s family members, colleagues in the Cabinet and present and former White House officials.

He has been seeking the interview with Trump as part of his investigation.

“I’m looking forward to it I would love to do that and I’d like to do it as soon as possible I would do it under oath,” Trump told reporters during an impromptu press conference outside the room of his Chief of Staff John Kelly at the White House.

He was responding to a question whether he was ready for an interview with Muller who wants to question him about his decision to fire his former national security advisor Michael Flynn and FBI director James Comey.

Trump hinted that the interview might take place in the next couple of weeks. But quickly added that this was “subject to my lawyers”.

“I guess they’re talking about two or three weeks. I have to say, subject to my lawyers and all of that, but I would love to do it,” he said.

“No collusion. There is no collusion,” he reiterated.

Trump said his presidential rival Hillary Clinton did not give an interview to FBI under oath.

“I couldn’t have cared less about Russians having to do with my campaign. The fact is – you people won’t say this but I’ll say it – I was a much better candidate than her,” he said.

“You will always say, she was a bad candidate. You will never say I was a good candidate. I was one of the greatest candidates. Nobody else would have beaten the Clinton machine, as crooked as it was. But I was a great candidate, something you would not say that” he told reporters before he left for Davos.



US Special counsel may question Trump on Russia probe

Washington: US Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team wants to question President Donald Trump as part of the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, media reports said today.

Mueller is trying to determine if Trump’s campaign advisers colluded with the Russian government to influence the election.

The investigation also reportedly involves a probe into whether the President obstructed justice when he allegedly asked ex-FBI director James Comey to drop an inquiry into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, becoming the first senior White House official to cut a cooperation deal in Mueller s inquiry.

Now Trump’s legal team is pushing for a written question and answer, multiple media reports said.

There was no comment from Muller’s office.

The White House and Trump has been saying that he is ready to cooperate as he has nothing to hide.

“Mr Trump’s lawyers are expected to try to set ground rules for any interview or provide answers to written questions. If Mr Trump were to refuse outright to cooperate, Mr Mueller could respond with a grand jury subpoena,” The New York Times said.

The Wall Street Journal said some members of Trump’s legal team believe a meeting between the president and Mueller would be ‘gratuitous’.

“The White House does not comment on communications with the Office of the Special Counsel out of respect for the Office of the Special Counsel and its process. The White House is continuing its full cooperation with the Office of the Special Counsel in order to facilitate the earliest possible resolution,” an attorney, who heads Trump s private legal team, said.

So far, Mueller has interviewed several top present and former White House officials. Prominent among them include Trump’s son-in-law Jarred Kushner.