Mark Zuckerberg Outlines Facebook’s Plan to Fight Russian Election Hacking

September 21, 2017, 9:03 PM UTC
Facing criticism that Facebook published Russian-bought divisive ads during the election season, the company’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to the social network to outline its plans to ensure election integrity moving forward. Speaking to the public via a Facebook Live post, Zuckerberg listed these 9 steps that the company has taken or will undertake moving forward.

1. Actively working with the US government on its ongoing investigations into Russian interference

Zuckerberg said Facebook initially found no evidence of fake accounts linked to Russia running ads. But after uncovering such activity recently, the company briefed Congress and turned information over to special counsel investigators.

“We are limited in what we can discuss publicly about law enforcement investigations, so we may not always be able to share our findings publicly,” said Zuckerberg. “But we support Congress in deciding how to best use this information to inform the public, and we expect the government to publish its findings when their investigation is complete.”

2. Continue investigating what happened on the social network during the 2016 presidential election

According to Zuckerberg, the company is looking into the actions of foreign actors—including additional Russian groups and other former Soviet states—as well as organizations, like the campaigns themselves. “We may find more, and if we do, we will continue to work with the government,” he said.

3. Make its political advertising more transparent

Describing this third step as the most important one Facebook is taking, Zuckerberg outlined a plan for bringing its political ads to “an even higher standard of transparency” than political ads in other media. This involves disclosing which Facebook page paid for a particular ad, as well as providing users with the ability to see the other ads that account is currently running to any audiences on the site. “We will roll this out over the coming months,” said Zuckerberg.

4. Strengthen its political ad review process

Zuckerberg noted that most ads on Facebook are bought without an advertiser “ever speaking to anyone at Facebook.” The company’s chief says the company can do more, but did not outline how or to what extent, except to reiterate that it would happen “even without our employees involved in the sales.”

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you we’re going to catch all bad content in our system. We don’t check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don’t think our society shouldn’t want us to,” said Zuckerberg. “Freedom means you don’t have to ask permission first, and that by default you can say what you want. If you break our community standards or the law, then you’re going to face consequences afterwards.”

5. Increase its investment in security and election integrity

Zuckerberg said Facebook will more than double the team working on election integrity, without revealing how many staffers that currently does or would eventually entail. Instead he said the company would add more than 250 people across all of its teams that are focused on security. Presumably these teams cover many issues, not just elections.

6. Expand its work with election commissions worldwide

Outlining the work Facebook already does in registering people to vote and to inform them about local issues, Zuckerberg said the company will establish a new channel for informing election commissions of the online risks the social network has identified in specific elections.

7. Share threats and information with other tech and security companies

Facebook is already working with programs like ThreatExchange to share information, said Zuckerberg, but it is also exploring other ways to alert its peers about election interference. That is good because Twitter is also feeling the heat for its role in how foreign users and bots influenced the election.

“It is important that tech companies collaborate on this because it’s almost certain that any actor trying to misuse Facebook will also be trying to abuse other internet platforms too,” said Zuckerberg.

8. Work “proactively to strengthen the democratic process”

Zuckerberg made a bold promise to create more services to protect Facebook users while they engaging in political discourse. He claimed the company was looking at adapting its anti-bullying systems to protect against political harassment, for instance, and that it is looking at using its ballot information tools to help more people better understand the election issues.

9. Ensure German election integrity

A high stakes announcement, Zuckerberg claimed that the company has done everything from flagging thousands of fake accounts to partnering with public authorities to make sure this weekend’s coming elections will be of Facebook-fueled controversy. The social network has examined the activity of removed accounts and Zuckerberg says it has not yet found similarities between Germany’s elections and the 2016 U.S. elections. German researchers, however, have their doubts.

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