Facebook, Twitter and Google once seemed to encapsulate freedom and connectivity. At a hearing on 1 November a new question will be posed: have they become a tool for foreign autocracies and domestic extremists?
A showdown is looming in Washington between Congress and the powerful social media companies that have helped define the current unsettled age in western democracies.
The immediate issue before the Senate and the House intelligence committees, which have summoned representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google to appear on 1 November, is to determine the extent the companies were used in a multi-pronged Russian operation to influence the 2016 presidential election.
All three companies have admitted that Russian entities bought ads on their sites in an effort to skew the vote.