Al Franken hammers Facebook lawyer at hearing over Russian ads

Senator clashes with Colin Stretch over how tech giants apparently missed posts coming from Russia: ‘How could you not connect the dots?’

i: Al Franken questions witnesses from Google, Facebook and Twitter. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A top executive at Facebook struggled to answer on Tuesday as an angry and incredulous Al Franken, a Democratic senator, demanded why the social network accepted political advertisements paid for in Russian roubles during the presidential election.

Colin Stretch, vice-president and general counsel at Facebook, admitted that the internet company could have done better in tracing the source of its ad funding during testimony to a Senate judiciary subcommittee. It is the first of three congressional hearings focusing on how three tech giants – Facebook, Google and Twitter – were exploited by Russia to sway voters.

“This is something you guys have to deal with and fix,” Franken told Stretch, who was appearing instead of the more recognisable Facebook leaders Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg. “You were kind of the canary in the coal mine in 2016.”