By Kirsten Korosec
March 30, 2018

Facebook outlined how it plans to increase security and thwart election meddling as pressure mounts on the social network to curb the rise of fake news and foreign interference.

Facebook continues to face criticism for its failure to prevent users from sharing misleading news on its service, particularly in the runup to the 2016 presidential election.

Company executives said Thursday, in a blog post that included a transcript of their comments, that they have four priorities:

  • combat foreign interference
  • removing fake accounts
  • increase ads transparency
  • reduce the spread of false news

The company has partnered with Associated Press to use their reporters in all 50 states to identify and debunk false and misleading stories related to the federal, state, and local U.S. midterm elections. It has expanded fact-checking efforts internationally as well. Most recently, Facebook launched a fact-checking initiative in Italy and Mexico with media partners to identify and rate stories, ensuring they take action quickly in the runup to their elections.

Facebook has also started fact-checking photos and videos, in addition to links. The company said Thursday it has started in France with the AFP and plans to scale to more countries and partners soon.

One of the company’s biggest efforts is finding better ways to discover and disable fake accounts. Facebook is now blocking millions of fake accounts every day, just as they’re created and before they can do harm, said Samidh Chakrabarti, product manager at Facebook who leads all work related to elections security and civic engagement.

“We’ve been able to do this thanks to advances in machine learning, which have allowed us to find suspicious behaviors — without assessing the content itself,” Chakrabarti said.

Facebook has also added a new investigative tool that can be deployed in the lead-up to elections. The tool, which was piloted last year around the time of the Alabama special Senate race, proactively looks for potentially harmful types of election-related activity, such as pages of foreign origin that are distributing inauthentic civic content. These suspicious accounts are then manually reviewed by Facebook’s security team to see if they violate its community standards or its terms of service.

The tool will be used in upcoming elections, including the U.S. midterms.

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