Last week, Facebook executives detailed their plan to protect future elections from meddling on the social media platform, elaborating on Facebook’s “use of human moderators, third-party fact checkers, and automation to catch fake accounts, foreign interference, fake news, and to increase transparency in political ads,” reports Wired. This comes in response to what happened nearly three years ago, when “a Russian propaganda group infiltrated Facebook and other tech platforms in hopes of seeding chaos in the 2016 U.S. election.”
Promising to increase its safety and security team to 20,000 people this year (more than double last year’s total), Facebook is making strides toward heightened protection for its users — but there’s still much work to be done, according to Wired.
“None of us can turn back the clock, but we are all responsible for making sure the same kind of attack on our democracy does not happen again. And we are taking our role in that effort very, very seriously,” said Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of product management.
Among the new approaches to privacy, Facebook announced that “its long promised advertisement transparency tool, which will allow people to see the ads that any given Facebook page has purchased, will be available globally this summer,” and that it “will require anyone seeking to place political ads in the United States to first provide a copy of their government-issued ID and a mailing address,” explains Wired.
After that, Facebook will take another step, sending physical mail to the provided address including a code needed to set up the ad. It will also “require the advertiser to disclose what candidate or organization they’re advertising on behalf of.” Once the ads go live, they’ll have a “paid for by” label on them, similar to those featured in TV ads.
However, this process is only specific to the United States as of now. Additionally, as Wired notes, “this process may prevent people from purchasing phony ads that are explicitly about an election, however, it doesn’t apply to issue-based ads. That leaves open a huge loophole for bad actors, including the Russian propagandists whose ads often focused on stoking tensions around issues like police brutality or immigration, rather than promoting candidates.”
The Facebook executives also discussed their new approaches to combating fake news stories and accounts on the platform. They’ll partner with third-party organizations to vet news stories, and have already partnered with the Associated Press in the U.S.
“When stories are flagged as potentially false, either by Facebook users or the company’s own technology, they’re sent to the fact-checkers. When the story is deemed to be false, Facebook lowers its likelihood of appearing in people’s News Feeds,” according to Wired.
While these and other new strategies represent a step in the right direction, they don’t address all of the company’s ongoing issues facing, including its current scandal involving Cambridge Analytica and user data. “The company has historically done little to prevent its users’ data from falling into the wrong hands,” notes Wired.
And according to a recent Bloomberg article, “A 2016 memo from a Facebook Inc. executive made the case for the company’s grow-at-all-costs culture, explaining that the negative consequences of the social network — even deaths and terrorist attacks — weren’t reason to abandon its purpose of connecting people to one another.”
Facebook Memo Reveals Angst Over Growth Culture’s Consequences, The Wall Street Journal, 3/30/18
Silicon Valley Rivals Take Shots at Facebook, The Wall Street Journal, 4/1/18