U.S. lawmakers ask Facebook, Twitter for information on anti-fracking ads

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. House committee investigating whether Russia has tried to influence U.S. public opinion on fossil fuels asked Facebook <FB.O>, Twitter <TWTR.N> and Alphabet <GOOGL.O> on Wednesday to turn over information about Russian entities that may have bought anti-fracking advertisements.

House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and climate change denier, asked the CEOs of the technology companies to turn over documents by Oct. 10 that detail the involvement of Russian-based or funded entities detected on their platforms, information on ads they purchased, and any communications concerning ads advocating for "so-called green initiatives."

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Former Facebook worker describes what it's like to work for the company
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Former Facebook worker describes what it's like to work for the company
In case you didn't hear, Facebook's trending team was laid off Friday, effective immediately.
I was on this team from 2014 to a few months ago. In honor of the team's demise I'll be sharing the 14 best & most absurd things I saw there
1. At one of my last team meetings, a manager talked about how much she loves her job and loves working at FB. She then announced 6 layoffs.
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4. I went to Karaoke in NYC for the first time with members of the team. At 12am. After work. #blessed
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10. Some of the people I met at the job are my best friends now and THAT is something I'll always be grateful for.
11. This guardian piece is the most accurate story I read about the Trending team. https://t.co/FY1mo8unr3
12. Trending taught me that most most of the world only cares about two things: sports and entertainment.
13. Our nickname for "Facebook Media Central" was "Media Hell."
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Smith and the Republicans on the committee that oversees U.S. scientific agencies have targeted mainstream climate change scientists, questioning their integrity and calling for eliminating federal funding for climate research. They have also accused environmental groups of colluding with Russians to push for regulations to curb fossil fuel extraction.

"The committee is concerned that divisive social media and political messages conveyed through social media have negatively affected certain energy sectors, which can depress research and development in the fossil fuel sector and expanding potential for natural gas," Smith wrote in letters to the CEOs.

The committee, which oversees U.S. scientific agencies, believes such anti-fracking ads reflect "the Russian government's concern about the impact of fracking ... on the global energy market and potential challenges to profitability" of Russian energy companies, the letter said.

The letter says Russia's meddling in the U.S. energy market has been "well documented in the public domain" and seeks information similar to what Facebook is providing to the U.S. Senate about anti-immigration propaganda and advertising.

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Fracking
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Fracking
Workers at a Statoil USA site in Texas's Eagle Ford shale formation dig out ground in mid-June to prepare to tie in a pipeline extension for a fracking project into an existing pipeline, in Runge, Texas, U.S, June 7, 2016. Producers have been hoping for a sustained rally in crude oil to support more drilling. REUTERS/David Gaffen
A fracking rig flares gas during an anti-fracking protest by Greenpeace activists outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
CRESCENT, OK - MARCH 31: Oil field workers pull pipes from a fracking well March 31, 2016 near, Crescent, Oklahoma. The United States Geological Survey estimates that more than 7 million people live in areas at risk of human-induced earthquake damage. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
Local residents and members of Resist AIM Pipeline standing on the sidewalk at the entrance of a pipeline construction site demanding the halting of the project as requested by Governor Andrew Cuomo. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
People protest against fracking and neighborhood oil drilling in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 14, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Anti-fracking protesters write messages on a wall with chalk during a demonstration outside County Hall in Preston, Britain June 24, 2015. Lancashire County Council is debating an application by shale gas firm Cuadrilla Resources to frack on the Fylde coast, local media reported. REUTERS/Andrew Yates
People protest against fracking and neighborhood oil drilling in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 14, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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Both parties in Washington have been stepping up scrutiny of major internet firms, and considering whether to create new disclosure rules for online political ads after Facebook revealed this month that suspected Russian trolls purchased more than $100,000 worth of divisive ads on its platform during the 2016 election cycle.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations is probing whether President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election. Trump and officials from the campaign have said there was no collusion.

Smith is dismissive of local and national protests that have emerged around the country objecting to the process of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas because of its affect on water quality, as well as the construction of pipelines to transport fracked oil and gas.

(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by David Gregorio)

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