Every since Donald Trump emerged victorious in the US Presidential Elections of 2016, people have been speculating that the win was the result of some sort of foul play during the Election Campaign. Theories raged from Facebook disseminating fake news to sway viewers in favor of one party over another to outside interference in tampering with information to influence public opinion. So last week, it was hardly a surprise when it was revealed that the US government had been actively investigating allegations of Russian interference in the elections that had been put forth for a long time for real evidence. Not only that, the investigations seemed to have yielded tangible results. And now, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself has come out and openly acknowledged Russia’s usage of the platform at least in some capacity in swinging the election outcomes.
According to the info revealed so far, Russian pages and fake accounts spent over $100,000 in Facebook Ads between the periods of 2015-2017. Most of these ads spread false propaganda and were targeted at the US audience in an attempt to affect election results. The US Government has been doing a crackdown on these accounts with Facebook and now, Mark has pledged nine additional steps the company plans to take in that direction. Some of these include:
- Working with the US government to identify and trace the culprits. Mark mentioned that Facebook had been actively working with the government for many months and only recently uncovered evidence suggesting foul play, which they immediately handed over to the US Senate. Further investigations on foreign and Soviet actors involved in this are ongoing although, due to the nature and sensitivity of the investigations, Facebook may not be as forthcoming about sharing any information in that regard.
- Increasing transparency in political ad purchases by fully disclosing what was purchased and by whom. Mark noted in his live stream “Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook. We will roll this out over the coming months, and we will work with others to create a new standard for transparency in online political ads”.
- Strengthening their ad review process especially for political ads to try and catch suspicious elements early on before they even get the chance to spread their misinformation campaign across.
- Increasing investment in security, especially election integrity by hiring more people (around 250) in this area.
- Sharing more information about threats with other security and tech companies, something the company currently already does with its Threat Exchange program.
You can watch the complete live stream embedded in the player below. At 8 minutes its rather short and should make for a quick watch (although as an aside, we cannot help but think Mark is reading all that stuff out from a display ahead of him).