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Can a young Northern California congressman save Silicon Valley from itself?

POLITICS

@alexnazaryan

RO IS ME To represent Silicon Valley, as Khanna does, is to speak and account for a techno elite given far more to self-celebration than introspection.
LEFT: CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY

Photo illustration by GLUEKIT

NERTHUZ/ALAMY

“China’s ability to retaliate is limited.”

AS MARK ZUCKERBERG TESTIFIED IN FRONT of the U.S. Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees, Representative Ro Khanna watched in dismay. This was less because of what the Facebook co-founder and chairman did say—for the most part, bromides about privacy, security and censorship—than because of what the lawmakers arrayed before him didn’t.

“This was a missed opportunity,” Khanna lamented later that evening in a text message. “The hearing revealed a knowledge gap in Congress about technology.” Many of the men and women questioning Zuckerberg were about twice his age, and some were quite a bit older than that. They knew that adversaries like Russia had weaponized social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, but the particulars of the problem clearly eluded them. The 44 legislators who took turns quizzing Zuckerberg showed only a cursory understanding of data collection and encryption, and the lengthy hearing quickly devolved into the kind of exasperating technology tutorial one dreads having to give aging relatives.

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THE NEW IRON CURTAIN? For years, Russia has tried to weaken and divide the EU, supporting groups ranging from Catalan separatists in Spain to British Brexit activists. The Kremlin had offered loans to France’s National Front and used its propaganda channels to whip up fake news about the persecution of Russian minorities in the Baltics. According to Political Capital, a Budapest based think tank, Russian-based trolls, Twitter bots and social media sock puppets have been put to work, boosting exaggerated stories of crimes by immigrants and “selling pro-Kremlin narratives within a tabloid, conspiracy package.”