Thursday 22/11/2018 - 12:46 pm


Facebook renews promise to lawmakers: we"re ready for elections


2018.06.23 03:56

 Facebook is sending a signal to Capitol Hill that its taking the integrity of its social network seriously during the U.S. primary election season.

The social networking giant hosted 250 or so media, civil servants and Facebook community members at an event here Tuesday, less than one mile from the White House and a mile and a half from Congress.

The location is more than symbolic as Facebook finds itself trying to appease lawmakers threatening stiffer regulations after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which as many as 87 million users data was sold to a political ad targeting firm during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Also riling lawmakers: the ability of Russian operatives to use online ads during and after the 2016 presidential election to amplify existing divisions in the country, and recent reports that Facebook shared data with third parties including device makers such as Apple and Samsung.

One of the main messages aimed to be delivered to Capitol Hill: Facebook is taking serious steps to protect its network, flush with 2.2 billion users, from misinformation and other political ploys on the platform.

"In retrospect, we were too slow to anticipate and build teams and tools around each of the forms of misuse," said Chris Cox, Facebooks chief product officer, who said he is here for a three-day itinerary of meetings with lawmakers and others to talk about the companys progress.

He called 2018 "an incredibly important year for the company for social media for the internet and democracy."

Facebook plans to double the number of people working on safety and security to 20,000 by the end of the year, a goal the company announced late last year as the revelations of divisive political ads placed by fake accounts emerged.

Last month, Facebook launched an online ad archive aimed at preventing bad actors from interfering in the midterm elections. Advertisers must now verify their identity and location before buying ads for political candidates or about political issues, and Facebook and Instagram users can see these political ads in an online archive.

But these steps, which Facebook has vowed will help it counter interference in the U.S. midterm elections, have been dogged by complaints.

Some candidates have found themselves unable to place legitimate ads on Facebook as they await the verification of their identities. A Democratic candidate for a U.S. House seat in California found herself the target of a negative Facebook ad campaign with none of the expected archive disclosures. News organizations, including USA TODAY, objected to the rules, which would also apply political messaging labels on sponsored posts that news organizations bought to amplify the reach of an article or video.

Scrutiny over Facebook policies that allowed outside companies to access user information havent abated in the wake of the Zuckerbergs lengthy Congressional hearings on the Cambridge Analytica leak. Lawmakers recently raised more questions  about recent reports the company shared, without explicit consent, access to data of Facebook users friends with device makers such as Apple, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung.

On Tuesday, as Facebook executives made their case, two of the key players in the Cambridge Analytica scandal — whistleblower Christopher Wylie and University of Cambridge researcher Aleksandr Kogan — spoke to two separate groups in Washington.

Executives have tried to assure lawmakers theyre focused keeping the platform safe from political manipulation, while keeping open the possibility that theyll fail.

Facebooks goal is to try to prevent what bad actors did in 2016 "from happening again on our platform, but also try to stay one step ahead of what new tactics they may be trying to use in 2018," said Katie Harbath, the companys director for global politics and government outreach.

"There is never going to be a point in time where I think we are going to be able to say we have stopped all the bad activity," Harbath said.

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