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Facebook CEO vows to fight election interference and fake news

Senator John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, asked Zuckerberg if he's willing to make a commitment to protect political speech from "all different corners"

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Facebook's CEO also vowed to fight fake news. Pixabay
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There is an online propaganda “arms race” with Russia and it was important to make sure no one interferes in any more elections including in India, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a five-hour marathon session at the US Congress.

“The most important thing I care about right now is making sure no one interferes in the various 2018 elections around the world,” he testified before a 44-Senator panel.

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Facebook was accused of leaking data to Cambridge Analytica earlier this year.

“As long as there are people sitting in Russia whose job it is to try and interfere with elections around the world, this is going to be an ongoing conflict,” the 33-year-old billionaire said as he prepared to testify again, this time before a House panel.

Zuckerberg has said Facebook will ensure that its platform is not misused to influence elections in India and elsewhere. Facebook on Monday said: “Our goals are to understand Facebook’s impact on upcoming elections — like Brazil, India, Mexico and the US midterms — and to inform our future product and policy decisions.”

Also Read: How to Find Out What Facebook, Google Know About You

Facebook’s stock was up about 2 per cent even before Zuckerberg sat down. It moved even higher when he started addressing the questions from lawmakers and finished the day with a 4.5 per cent gain. Zuckerberg accepted that the company did not do enough to prevent the platform from being used to harm others.

In his opening remarks, he said: “Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company. For most of our existence, we focused on all of the good that connecting people can do.

“But it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used as harm as well. “That goes for fake news, for interference in elections and we didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility and that was a big mistake and it was my mistake and I’m sorry,” the Facebook CEO said.

Facebook invests big in Community Leaders Program. AFP
Facebook CEO is under a lot of heat. AFP

With 44 Senators asking questions, and just five minutes of time allotted for each, there was limited potential for follow-up questions to and grilling of the CEO. His apology came as Facebook faced a widening scandal where a British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica improperly gathered detailed information on 87 million of its users.

“It’s not enough to just connect people. We have to make sure those connections are positive. It’s not enough to give people a voice. We have to make sure people aren’t using it to harm people or spread disinformation,” Zuckerberg told Senators. Facebook was getting to the bottom of exactly what Cambridge Analytica did and telling everyone affected.

“What we know now is that Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed information by buying it. When we first contacted Cambridge Analytica, they told us they had deleted the data,” Zuckerberg said. He said the company made big changes in the platform in 2014 that have prevented this specific situation with Cambridge Analytica from occurring again.

Zuckerberg confirmed that his company was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US Presidential election.

Also Read: Jack Ma asks Zuckerberg to ‘fix’ Facebook

Asked by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy while he testified on Capitol Hill whether Facebook had been served subpoenas for the special counsel, Zuckerberg responded “yes,” but later clarified: “I am actually not aware of a subpoena. I’m aware that there may be, but we are working with them.”

Asked if his employees had been interviewed, he again responded yes but added, “I have not”, reports CNN. He continued: “I want to be careful here because our work with the special counsel is confidential and I want to make sure that in an open session I’m not revealing something that is confidential.”

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The social media app is in news for all the wrong reasons lately. VOA

Senator John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, asked Zuckerberg if he’s willing to make a commitment to protect political speech from “all different corners”. Zuckerberg agreed: “If there’s an imminent threat of harm, we’re going to take a conservative position on that and make sure that we flag that and understand that more broadly.

“I don’t want anyone at our company to make any decisions based on the political ideology of the content,” he added. On a question if Facebook has a political bias, he said the platform’s goal was not to engage political speech.

Zuckerberg said he understands the concerns, especially because “Facebook and tech industry is located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely Left-leaning place”. But he said he tries to make sure Facebook does not have any bias in the work that it does. IANS

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Facebook not yet ready with digital payments on Messenger in India

When launched, the new payments feature is set to give a tough competition to Paytm and other digital payment services like Google Tez

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The Facebook's image.
Facebook not ready for online payments. Pixabay

Facebook has no plans as of now to bring digital payment facility to its Messenger application in India, informed sources said on Thursday. “There are currently no tests planned for recharges or peer-to-peer payments on Messenger in India,” the sources told IANS.

Factor Daily had reported that Facebook has begun a beta version of recharge payments for mobile phone and other prepaid services on Messenger. “Mobile recharge option is a Facebook ‘Marketplace’ offering — which is actually going on as a pilot test which is right now available to only Android users in some regions,” the sources added.

The icon of Facebook.
Facebook has many fake profiles. Pixabay

Launched in 2016, Marketplace is a user-to-user exchange platform for buying and selling goods with others within the community. Currently, the peer-to-peer payment service on Messenger is available for its users in the US and the UK.

More than 1.3 billion people around the world are now using Facebook Messenger every month. The growth of Messenger now puts the app at par with Facebook-owned WhatsApp which also has over 1.3 billion monthly active users (MAUs). WhatsApp, however, has rolled out the testing phase of its digital payment feature in India — a first such move globally — which will be officially rolled out to its over 200 million Indian users in the days to come.

Also Read: Facebook introduces new privacy updates for EU users

When launched, the new payments feature is set to give a tough competition to Paytm and other digital payment services like Google Tez. The payments feature would take advantage of UPI (Unified Payments Interface) and include support by a number of banks, including the State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, and Axis Bank. IANS