(Editor's note: Kent Harrington, a former senior CIA analyst, served as National Intelligence Officer for East Asia, Chief of Station in Asia and the CIA's Director of Public Affairs.) After months of corporate foot dragging, Mark Zuckerberg's decision last week to give congressional investigators thousands of political ads seeded on Facebook by Russian intelligence during the 2016 election seems a step in the right direction. But Moscow's meddling is only part of social media's problem. While hitting the right rhetorical notes, Zuckerberg's announcement fell well short of demonstrating he and his Silicon Valley colleagues understand the need to respond to the challenge their companies -- and the country -- face. Having fattened bottom lines by monetizing its role as a news source for millions of Americans, the social media industry's problem isn't building a better algorithm to police "bad actors." In fact, Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet Union's founding father, put his finger on it a century before the information age. "The capitalists," Lenin wrote, "will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." President Vladimir Putin, Lenin's latest successor in the Kremlin, and no less pointedly, China's President Xi Jinping can testify that Ethernet cables will work just as well. That's why the behavior of social media's corporate leaders is so puzzling. After months of revelations, none has stepped up to their collective responsibility for what the Russians pulled off. For CEOs who endlessly tout the social and economic benefits of their revolutionary technologies, their silence raises troubling questions, not least whether they comprehend their part in meeting the threat to the integrity of American elections and the democratic process that Russia presents. When it comes to profits versus principles, what can and should we expect from these leaders?
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