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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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Facebook Introduces New Tools to Protect Elections Globally

In April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the US Senate, saying they were too slow to spot and respond to Russian interference

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Facebook expands security tools to protect elections globally. Pixabay

In order to further secure candidates and campaign staff vulnerable to hackers and nation-state actors during the elections, Facebook has introduced additional tools to protect political campaigns in the US and around the world.

The social media giant has launched a pilot programme to expand its existing protections for users associated with US political campaigns ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections.

“Candidates for federal or statewide office, as well as staff members and representatives from federal and state political party committees, can add additional security protections to their Pages and accounts,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, wrote in a blog post late on Monday.

“We’ll help officials adopt our strongest account security protections, like two-factor authentication, and monitor for potential hacking threats,” Gleicher added.

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Facebook App on a smartphone device. (VOA)

Over the past year, the company has invested in new technology and more people to stay ahead of bad actors who are determined to use Facebook to disrupt elections.

“This pilot programme is an addition to our existing security tools and procedures, and we will apply what we learn to other elections in the US and around the world,” said Facebook.

“As we detect abuse, we will continue to share relevant information with law enforcement and other companies so we can maximise our effectiveness,” it added.

According to a report in Download, a working paper released last week revealed a significant drop-off in the engagements 570 fake news sites received on Facebook since the 2016 US presidential elections.

“At its peak, there were 200 million monthly engagements with the sites. As of July 2018, that’s dropped to 70 million,” the report added.

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Facebook, social media. Pixabay

In April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the US Senate, saying they were too slow to spot and respond to Russian interference.

“Our sophistication in handling these threats is growing and improving quickly. We now have about 15,000 people working on security and content review. We’ll have more than 20,000 by the end of this year,” he told the lawmakers.

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The Facebook CEO apologised for what happened and took responsibility for everything. He also said that 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.

“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. (IANS)