Skip to main content

Watch: Al Franken loses his mind while quizzing Facebook lawyer about Russian ads

The senator shouted at Facebook's lawyer about ads bought with Russian roubles.

Facebook's general counsel probably doesn't get yelled at very often. Especially by a U.S. senator over the company's technology and Russian roubles.

But he got an earful about just that from a (clearly perturbed) Sen. Al Franken Tuesday.

High-level execs from Facebook, Google and Twitter were in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for a session on Russian election interference subtitled "Working with Tech to Find Solutions."

When Franken spoke, it was less of a cooperative "working with each other" vibe, and more of a "how the hell did you miss this?" dressing down.

Related: 

Al Franken tears into former Equifax CEO over the data breach

C-SPAN has the full, 3-hour testimony from the subcommittee. Thankfully, some kind YouTubers have pulled Franken's bit specifically, where he mainly questions Facebook lawyer Colin Stretch. (The clip should start at about 0:45, and things really get testy a couple minutes in.)

If you can't watch and listen right now, here's a bit of the transcript:

"Mr. Stretch," Franken asks. "How did Facebook, which prides itself on being able to process billions of data points and instantly transform them into personal connections for its users, somehow not make the connection that electoral ads, paid for in roubles, were coming from Russia?

"Those are two data points: American political ads and Russia money, roubles. How could you not connect those two dots?"

Stretch begins to talk about that as one aspect of the Russian threat, adding that in hindsight, "there are signals we missed."

Franken, voice slowly rising to a yell, cuts him off: 

"OK, people are buying ads on your platform with roubles. They're political ads. You put billions of data points together all the time, that's what i hear that these platforms do. They're the most sophisticated things invented by man, ever. Google has all knowledge that man has ever developed. You can't put together roubles with a political ad and go like, 'Hmmm, those two data points spell out something bad?'"

"Senator, it's a signal we should have been alert to, and in hindsight, it's one we missed," Stretch responds.

"OK, yeah," Franken jumps back in, face buried in his hands. Just look at it – you don't even need the sound of his exasperated sigh to pick up on his frustration. 

The three social media execs are back in front of lawmakers Wednesday, this time the Senate Intelligence Committee.

All of this comes after it was revealed in recent weeks that Russian-connected accounts bought election-related ads on the three social media platforms.

Klobuchar: 'I don't think it's enough'

Franken's fellow Minnesota senator, Amy Klobuchar, also asked questions at the hearing (though with slightly less showmanship than Franken.) She starts at about 1:14 in the C-SPAN video.

Klobuchar said she does "appreciate the efforts" from these companies, "but I don't think it's enough."

Her concern is about enforcement and consistency. Social media companies can apply all the internal rules they want – if there's no authority to ensure they're following through, that's a potentially large hole.

"We're going to have a patchwork of ads from different companies. Some won't be doing anything, some will be doing one thing, another will be doing another thing. We won't have actual enforcement. Management can change and decisions change, and that's why I think it's very important we have the same rules of the road for these issue ads, as well as candidate ads that we have for TV, radio and print. It's that simple," she said.

Klobuchar recently introduced a bill – cosponsored by one Democrat and one Republican – that would bring online political advertising guidelines more in line with what TV or radio broadcasters are required to do.

Read our story with details about her proposal here.

Next Up

2 (3)

Focus is on family fitness at this year’s Twin Cities Marathon

Don’t miss out on the running, racing and all the fun things to do for the whole family

Screen Shot 2022-08-18 at 2.29.47 PM

Family's tributes to mother killed by partner in St. Paul murder-suicide

The 30-year-old was killed by her partner, who then killed himself.

FatalEaganCrashSceneAug18

Eagan man killed after crashing into traffic signal

The 30-year-old crashed into a traffic light early Wednesday morning.

Melvin Carter

What's in Mayor Melvin Carter's budget proposal?

Here's what the St. Paul mayor is putting his focus on for the upcoming year.

WCCO building

Digital, streaming employees at WCCO-TV vote to unionize

The 15 employees will join on-air talent and producers as members of the SAG-AFTRA union.

unnamed-3

Police arrest man suspected of sexual assault, weapons threat in Eagan

The investigation prompted a SWAT response in an Eagan neighborhood on Tuesday.

covid

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for the week ending Tuesday, August 16

The latest reporting period averaged just under 1,300 new cases per day.

USATSI_12923669

Jason and Carly Zucker sell Edina home for $4.18M

The property was bought in 2020, months after Jason Zucker was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Legacy Lot Random (1 of 6)

Gallery: Luxury living is par for the course here

Cragun’s Golf Resort Communities Offer Stunning Views Along with Resort-Style Living

Related

Update: Franken explains why Russian ads on Facebook bring up 'serious concerns'

Facebook said Russian accounts ran ads specifically about divisive issues in America.

Al Franken has low expectations for Jeff Sessions' testimony

Sessions will publicly testify about the Russia investigation Tuesday. Franken is hoping for answers.

Klobuchar's proposal to hold Facebook, Google and Twitter accountable for shady election ads

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has a proposal that would close the online election ad loophole.

Report of Russian cyberattack days before election has Klobuchar concerned

A leaked NSA document published by The Intercept says Russian intelligence launched a cyberattack days before the election.

Are voters changing their minds on whether they think Al Franken should resign?

A new poll of Minnesota voters found them split on whether the senator should step down.

Al Franken has to change a lot of minds if he wants to win back Minnesotans' trust

The senator vows he'll make amends – but recent polls show serious damage to his public standing.

What Sen. Al Franken said about the choice of Tina Smith as his successor

Smith will take over for Franken in the Senate once he steps down.

What Franken and Klobuchar asked during the Sally Yates hearing

Both of Minnesotas senators were part of the big Russia/2016 election/Mike Flynn hearing Monday.