Monday March 18, 2019
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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

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

Next Story

Mass Shooting in New Zealand: Facebook Still Working to Remove All Videos

The attack came during Friday prayers when the Al Noor Mosque and the nearby Linwood Mosque were filled with hundreds of worshippers. The victims of Friday's shooting included immigrants from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia.

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The logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square, In this March 29, 2018. VOA

Facebook is continuing to work to remove all video of the mass shooting in New Zealand which the perpetrator livestreamed Friday, the company said Sunday.

“We will continue working directly with New Zealand Police as their response and investigation continues,” Mia Garlick of Facebook New Zealand said in a statement Sunday.

Garlick said that the company is currently working to remove even edited versions of the original video which do not contain graphic content, “Out of respect for the people affected by this tragedy and the concerns of local authorities.”

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Facebook’s most recent comments follow criticism of the platform after the shooter not only livestreamed the 17 graphic minutes of his rampage, using a camera mounted on his helmet, but also had posted a 74-page white supremacist manifesto on Facebook. Pixabay

In the 24 hours following the mass shooting, which left 50 people dead, Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the attack, of which 1.2 million were blocked at upload, the company said.

Facebook’s most recent comments follow criticism of the platform after the shooter not only livestreamed the 17 graphic minutes of his rampage, using a camera mounted on his helmet, but also had posted a 74-page white supremacist manifesto on Facebook.

Earlier Sunday, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference that there were “further questions to be answered” by Facebook and other social media platforms.

FILE - New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks on live television following fatal shootings at two mosques in central Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks on live television following fatal shootings at two mosques in central Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019. VOA

“We did as much as we could to remove or seek to have removed some of the footage that was being circulated in the aftermath of this terrorist attack. Ultimately, though, it has been up to those platforms to facilitate their removal and support their removal,” she said.

The attack came during Friday prayers when the Al Noor Mosque and the nearby Linwood Mosque were filled with hundreds of worshippers. The victims of Friday’s shooting included immigrants from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia. (VOA)