Why aren't the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter testifying?

Facebook, Google, Twitter get grilled on Russian ads
Facebook, Google, Twitter get grilled on Russian ads

The CEO of Wells Fargo testified before Congress amid a scandal over fake accounts.

The CEO of General Motors appeared on Capitol Hill after a fatal flaw with an ignition switch.

Even the CEO of Apple did it while facing scrutiny over the company's tax practices.

But the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter are not testifying before Congress in the face of an unfolding crisis over Russian meddling in last year's election -- at least not yet.

The tech companies are testifying in a series of three congressional hearings this week into how foreign nationals used social media to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

At the hearings, which began on Tuesday, lawmakers pressed the companies on fundamental questions about their immense power and inability to police their massive audiences.

But these tough questions have not been directed at the CEOs who created and run these platforms. Instead, the companies are represented by their general counsels.

Their glaring absence has caught the attention of members of Congress.

"I'm disappointed that you're here and not your CEOs," Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, said at a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. "We would appreciate seeing the top people who are actually making the decisions."

Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, echoed the point at the same hearing. "I wish that your CEOs would be here. They need to answer for this."

Some in the tech industry also pointed it out. "Given the seriousness of the issue, it's shocking that @google, @facebook & @twitter choose to not send their CEOs," Jason Calacanis, an early Uber investor, said on Twitter.

Related: Facebook, Twitter, Google defend their role in election

Just because these CEOs are not testifying this week doesn't mean they won't be pressured to at a later date.

Andy Stone, a spokesman for Facebook (FB), directed CNN Tech to remarks last month from Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Burr said it was more important to get the "person who's most capable of talking about the technical aspects" than to get the CEO.

"The Facebook security and threat intelligence teams report up to [General Counsel] Colin Stretch, and Stretch has been very involved in the review of foreign interference on our platform," Stone said.

Reps for Twitter (TWTR) and Google (GOOG) did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

tech execs testify

"Since this is an information gathering session, I think it makes sense to start with the legal counsel," said James Cakmak, an analyst who covers the three companies for Monness, Crespi, Hardt. "If and when it comes to the next and higher level of discourse. ... I would suspect then the CEOs would be summoned to testify."

The tech execs have been remiss to go before Congress on other issues. House Republicans invited the CEOs of Facebook, Google and other tech companies to testify on net neutrality. The CEOs did not commit to appear and the hearing was postponed.

While he did not attend, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey did tweet multiple times about the hearing on Tuesday. Google CEO Sundar Pichai did not post about it. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a picture of his family going trick-or-treating.

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