Tuesday November 13, 2018
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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 is working on launching Athena, its own Internet satellite, early in 2019, the WIRED reported. 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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Teenage Girls Being Urged To Befriend ‘Middle-Aged Men’ On Facebook: Report

In October, Facebook had removed 8.7 million user images of child nudity

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Fake News, Facebook, dating
This photo shows the logo for Facebook on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square. VOA

Facebook is encouraging grooming by offering teenage girls middle-aged men as ‘friend suggestions’, the media reported.

Teenage girls, as young as 13-year-olds, who join the social network are given up to 300 suggestions for who they can add as friends, some of which include middle-aged men who are topless in their profile photos, The Telegraph reported late on Saturday.

Facebook has said that was not a typical experience for teenagers for signing up for the service and that it has safeguards built into its recommendation system.

Following the findings, UK-based charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has called for friend recommendations to be suspended for children on the social networking giant’s platform.

Facebook, myanmar
A cellphone user looks at a Facebook page at a shop in Latha street, Yangon, Myanmar. VOA

‘Groomers are seeking to infiltrate children’s friendship groups on social networks, often with the intention to move children to live streaming or encrypted sites where it is easier for them to commit sexual abuse,” Andy Burrows, NSPCC Associate Head of Child Safety Online, was quoted as saying.

“Social media algorithms risk making it easier for groomers to find and contact children and ‘friend of friend’ or ‘new follower’ recommendations can add legitimacy to their requests, which is why we are calling for these features to be blocked for children.

“For too long social networks have failed to make their platforms safe for children, and that is why the Home Secretary must commit to strong and effective regulation to finally ensure that children’s safety is non-negotiable,” she said.

According to Facebook, the company has safeguards to protect children. However, the campaigners warn that the networking giant must do more to stop groomers who use the site to become friendly with children.

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This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

“Grooming is incredibly serious, and we have teams specifically focused on keeping children safe, informed by extensive research and outside experts,” said a spokesman for Facebook, the Daily Mail reported on Saturday.

“We use artificial intelligence to proactively identify cases of inappropriate interactions with minors and we refer potential abuse to law enforcement.

“We limit how children can be found in search, we remind them to only accept friend requests from people they know and we caution them before making public posts.”

Also Read: Twitter Giving Its Users More Freedom To Report Fake, Suspicious Accounts

In October, Facebook had removed 8.7 million user images of child nudity with the help of previously undisclosed machine learning software that automatically flagged such photos during the last quarter.

The company has said that it is also considering rolling out systems for spotting child nudity and grooming to Instagram. (IANS)