Facebook ‘Better Prepared’ to Fight Election Interference, Mark Zuckerberg Says

SAN FRANCISCO — Mark Zuckerberg began the year by promising to make Facebook safer from election interference around the world. He has spent most of the rest of the year apologizing for not yet living up to that promise.

On Wednesday, Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, published a roughly 3,300-word blog post cataloging all the steps the company has taken.

“In 2016, we were not prepared for the coordinated information operations we now regularly face,” he wrote, alluding to Russian interference in the American presidential election. “But we have learned a lot since then and have developed sophisticated systems that combine technology and people to prevent election interference on our services.”

“Today, Facebook is better prepared for these kinds of attacks,” he added.

The unusual post is an answer of sorts to Facebook’s controversy-ridden last 18 months and reflects how Mr. Zuckerberg has staked his reputation on reducing the disinformation, divisive messages and false news that have spread on the site. While the chief executive often takes to his personal Facebook page to write short notes about the company, he said this month that he would publish pieces looking more in depth at issues facing it, starting with a post about securing elections worldwide.

In April, Mr. Zuckerberg testified in Congress about Russian manipulation of Facebook before the 2016 election, with lawmakers grilling him on the company’s lack of awareness of the misuse. Since then, he has grappled with reports of disinformation campaigns on his platform in countries ranging from India to Mexico. And last week, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, also showed up in Congress to talk about foreign interference on her company’s site.

Facebook faces several coming tests of whether it can detect and stop election interference: The company is being scrutinized for its role in Brazil’s presidential election next month, and the November midterm elections in the United States are fast approaching.

Since November 2016, Mr. Zuckerberg’s outward stance has shifted from being defensive and evasive to taking more responsibility for Facebook’s role and influence in the world.

As he has shifted, the company has rolled out tools and policies to clamp down on disinformation and interference.

The efforts range from using automated programs to find and remove fake accounts, to featuring Facebook pages that spread disinformation less prominently so that fewer people potentially see them. Mr. Zuckerberg wrote that Facebook was also well on its way toward hiring 10,000 additional people to work on safety and security issues, as well as improving coordination with law enforcement and other companies over suspicious activity.

He also described how Facebook had set up a program that invites outside academics to study social media’s impact on elections, part of a more collaborative approach the company has espoused in recent months. Other moves include publishing a so-called transparency report, which documents the number of false accounts removed by Facebook twice a year.

One of the efforts that is furthest along is Facebook’s new requirement that buyers of political ads on its network be verified as United States citizens or permanent residents, an attempt to cut down on foreign interference. Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, operatives from Russia bought hundreds of Facebook ads to spread inflammatory messages among the American electorate. Facebook has since created a searchable database of all political ads on its platform.

Over the summer, Facebook revealed that it had also removed 32 pages and fake accounts that were involved in an influence campaign aimed at Americans. Facebook also named Iran and Russia as running separate influence operations, and said it had removed hundreds of accounts and pages involved in those efforts.

But Mr. Zuckerberg also framed Facebook’s actions as part of a continuing digital information war, an “arms race” against those who invest in ways to sow havoc across the social network of 2.2 billion regular visitors.

“While we’ve made steady progress, we face sophisticated, well-funded adversaries,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in the post. “They won’t give up, and they will keep evolving. We need to constantly improve and stay one step ahead.”

One of Facebook’s toughest challenges has been navigating how to handle coordinated misinformation campaigns without becoming an arbiter of truth. The company has taken pains not to appear biased toward one side of the political spectrum or the other.

Perhaps the strongest message of Mr. Zuckerberg’s memo is that it is not just up to Facebook to fight back. Many disinformation campaigns occur across social media platforms — Twitter, Reddit, Instagram and others — and Mr. Zuckerberg said companies needed to get better at sharing information to understand the scope of attacks.

He also pointed at the need for improved cooperation between his company and United States intelligence agencies. In an opinion piece published last week in The Washington Post, Mr. Zuckerberg called on the private and public sectors to work together more frequently and openly than they had in the past.

“The last point I’ll make is that we’re all in this together,” he wrote in his blog post. “The definition of success is that we stop cyberattacks and coordinated information operations before they can cause harm. While I’d always rather Facebook identified abuse first, that won’t always be possible.”

“We will all need to continue improving and working together to stay ahead and protect our democracy,” he added.

Follow Sheera Frenkel and Mike Isaac on Twitter: @sheeraf and @MikeIsaac.

Interested in All Things Tech? Get the Bits newsletter delivered to your inbox weekly for the latest from Silicon Valley and the technology industry.

Source link

more recommended stories

  • On Politics: Inside Trump’s War on the Investigations Encircling Him

    Good Wednesday morning. Here are some.

  • Bernie Sanders on the Issues: Where He Stands and What Could Derail Him

    The measure, drafted by Representative Alexandria.

  • Elizabeth Warren’s Native American Ancestry Draws a Shrug From These Voters

    “She definitely made a mistake,” he.

  • Anthony Weiner Is Out of Prison, and in a Re-Entry Center in Brooklyn

    [What you need to know to.

  • Heather Nauert Withdraws From Consideration as U.N. Ambassador

    PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump’s.

  • Watch Out. Tax Season Is Even More Stressful Than Usual.

    Take a deep breath, a drink,.

  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Returns to Work at Supreme Court

    WASHINGTON — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

  • Ilhan Omar Confronts Venezuela Envoy About Iran-Contra Affair and Human Rights – Video

    Channels & Shows Home Search U.S..

  • With Procedural Maneuver, House G.O.P. Elevates Anti-Semitism as Political Issue

    The National Republican Congressional Committee blasted.

  • Unmistakable Divide Among Women in Virginia Over Accusations Against Fairfax

    It is an even more awkward.

  • As Primary Season Begins, Who Can Grab Trump by the Ratings?

    You can tell how deeply Donald.

  • On Politics With Lisa Lerer: The Sexism Shield

    Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your.

  • ‘He May Not Even Be a Free Person,’ Elizabeth Warren Says of Trump in 2020

    CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Countless Democratic.

  • Mission ‘Accomplished’? Trump Boasts of Being Boon for Military

    WASHINGTON — Over the past two.

  • Unlikely Partnership in House Gives Lawmakers Hope for Border Deal

    WASHINGTON — When it became clear.

  • In Surprise Abortion Vote, Roberts Avoids ‘Jolt to the Legal System’

    Mr. Specter, at the time a.

  • On Politics: ‘Green New Deal’ Plan Is Unveiled

    Liberal Democrats hope to redefine the.

  • Albany’s ‘Wonder Twins’ Form a Power Duo, Challenging Cuomo’s Influence

    [What you need to know to.

  • Virginia Attorney General Says He Also Dressed in Blackface

    RICHMOND — Virginia Attorney General Mark.

  • Beto O’Rourke to Make 2020 Decision by End of February

    Beto O’Rourke, the Texas Democrat whose.

  • On Politics: Scandal Splits Top Virginia Democrats

    Good Tuesday morning. Here are some.

  • Attacking a Pay Wall That Hides Public Court Filings

    WASHINGTON — The federal judiciary has.

  • Trump Won’t Commit to Making Mueller Report Public

    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President.

  • ‘I Am Not Either of the People in That Photo’ – Video

    Channels & Shows Home Search Politics.

  • Justice Alito Temporarily Blocks a Louisiana Abortion Law

    WASHINGTON — Saying the Supreme Court.

  • Trump Discusses ‘Fake News,’ and Its Repercussions, With Times’s Publisher

    “And I think I am, too,”.

  • Sanders Unveils Estate Tax Plan, Joining Democrats Who Want to Tax the Rich

    Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a.

  • Kamala Harris’s Misleading Answer About a Police Shooting Bill

    What Was Said Jake Tapper, CNN.

  • After a Shutdown Test of Wills Comes a Test of Governance

    By the nature of their role.

  • On Politics: A Pro-Israel Bill Also Aims to Divide Democrats

    The legislation, which allows state and.

  • Shutdown Cost U.S. Economy $11 Billion, C.B.O. Says

    WASHINGTON — The five-week federal government.

  • Trump Thought Firing Flynn Would End ‘Russia Thing,’ Chris Christie Writes in Book

    He recalled the first time he.