Senator Feinstein makes broad request for all ‘Russia-connected’ Twitter and Facebook user data

The nature and extent of Russia or Russian-linked actors interfering with the Presidential election is yet to be determined, but it’s not for want of inquiries. Half the people on Capitol Hill are looking into it in one way or another, and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is no exception; her position as head Democrat on the Judiciary Committee rather demands it. Today the Senator sent letters to several parties involved, including Facebook and Twitter, asking for a wide variety of documents relating to her investigations.

Five letters were sent, requesting too many items to list here exhaustively. The two sent to Facebook and Twitter were similar down the phrasing in many questions.

She thanks both companies for their cooperation with other investigations, then asks for documents relating to the ads found to be part of a coordinated effort to sway users in favor of voting Trump. Ads targeting similar subsets of people and metadata about the ads (clicks, shares, etc) are also requested.

She also wants to see “Documents sufficient to show whether and how [Facebook/Twitter] is undertaking efforts to identify other accounts that had a connection to Russia’s influence campaign in the 2016 election.” In other words, what are you doing about it?

There’s also an extremely broad request that I can’t see either company fulfilling: “All ads and organic content posted by Russia-connected users and targeted to any part of the United States, regardless of whether the individual or entity violated any [Facebook/Twitter] policy.” And by Russia-connected she means in pretty much any way: language setting, currency or services used, IP address, or other targeting data. This seems like one the companies will push back on (and with good reason).

I contacted both companies to see what they thought of the request. Twitter declined to comment, and I’m waiting to hear back from Facebook.

There are unique requests for both, however, and for specific interference methods supposed to have taken place on the respective platforms. Google, despite also being under suspicion of having interference activities take place on its platforms, was not contacted.

One letter was sent to Michael Cohen, a Trump-related lawyer who is suggested to have orchestrated the release of DNC data through contacts in the Kremlin; he is requested to appear in person before November 6 and bring a truckload of data with him.

Another went to Cambridge Analytica, the data analysis firm that the Trump campaign reportedly went to for help organizing the data produced by the DNC hack.

The last letter went to the White House, asking for less tech-oriented info — Comey and Kushner stuff.

November 6 is the shared due date for all this information, though the data requested is extensive enough that we are likely to see pleas for time.