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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said tech should cooperate with law enforcement — and help the U.S. fight Russia

Plus, he appeared to cast some doubt on newly proposed regulation targeting online political ads.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Mark Wilson / Getty

The Republican leader of the U.S. Senate suggested on Saturday that tech giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter could help the United States “retaliate” against Russian forces that spread disinformation on social media around the 2016 presidential election.

In doing so, though, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also revealed that he is “skeptical” of new efforts to regulate political ads that appear on top tech platforms.

Both comments came during an interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show, which aired days after top lawyers from Facebook, Google and Twitter appeared on Capitol Hill for three hearings at which lawmakers probed whether they should have done more — and sooner — to combat the Kremlin’s online propaganda efforts.

Asked about the absence of leaders like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, McConnell described it as “not good” — then charged that the tech industry writ large “ought to be more interested in cooperating when you have a clear law enforcement issue, more interested in cooperating with law enforcement than they have been.”

“What we ought to do with regard to the Russians is retaliate, seriously retaliate against the Russians. And the, these tech firms could be helpful in ... giving us a way to do that,” he later added.

And McConnell appeared to cast early doubt on efforts in Congress that would subject Facebook, Google and Twitter to new rules requiring them to make copies of all political ads available for public inspection. The measure is called the Honest Ads Act, and it’s chiefly backed by Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar, and GOP Sen. John McCain. It would also require large online platforms to offer information about the audiences those ads targeted.

“I’m a little skeptical of these disclosure-type proposals that are floating around, which strikes me would mostly penalize American citizens trying to use the internet and to advertise,” McConnell said.

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