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Facebook Deals With Misinformation As U.S. Prepares For Its Midterm Election

The stepped-up efforts to give users more clarity about the rules and the steps to challenge decisions are signs Facebook is moving in the right direction

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Donald Trump, U.S.
President Donald Trump speaks at a fundraiser in Fargo, N.D.. VOA

As U.S. voters prepare to head to the polls Tuesday, the election will also be a referendum on Facebook.

In recent months, the social networking giant has beefed up scrutiny of what is posted on its site, looking for fake accounts, misinformation and hate speech, while encouraging people to go on Facebook to express their views.

“A lot of the work of content moderation for us begins with our company mission, which is to build community and bring the world closer together,” Peter Stern, who works on product policy stakeholder engagement at Facebook, said at a recent event at St. John’s University in New York City.

Facebook wants people to feel safe when they visit the site, Stern said. To that end, it is on track to hire 20,000 people to tackle safety and security on the platform.

As part of its stepped-up effort, Facebook works with third-party fact-checkers and takes down misinformation that contributes to violence, according to a blog post by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO.

But most popular content, often dubbed “viral,” is frequently the most extreme. Facebook devalues posts it deems are incorrect, reducing their viralness, or future views, by 80 percent, Zuckerberg said.

Disinformation campaigns

Recently Facebook removed accounts followed by more than 1 million people that it said were linked to Iran but pretended to look like they were created by people in the U.S. Some were about the upcoming midterm elections.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy. VOA

The firm also removed hundreds of American accounts that it said were spamming political misinformation.

Still, Facebook is criticized for what at times appears to be flaws in its processes.

Vice News recently posed as all 100 U.S. senators and bought fake political ads on the site. After approving them all, Facebook said it made a mistake.

Politicians in Britain and Canada have asked Zuckerberg to testify on Facebook’s role on spreading disinformation.

“I think they are really struggling and that’s not surprising, because it’s a very hard problem,” said Daphne Keller, who used to be on Google’s legal team and is now with Stanford University.

 

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A protester wearing a mask with the face of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, in between men wearing angry face emoji masks, is seen during a demonstration against Facebook outside Portcullis in London. VOA

 

“If you think about it, they get millions, billions of new posts a day, most of them some factual claim or sentiment that nobody has ever posted before, so to go through these and figure out which are misinformation, which are false, which are intending to affect an electoral outcome, that is a huge challenge,” Keller said. “There isn’t a human team that can do that in the world, there isn’t a machine that can do that in the world.”

Transparency

While it has been purging its site of accounts that violate its policies, the company has also revealed more about how decisions are made in removing posts. In a 27-page document, Facebook described in detail what content it removes and why, and updated its appeals process.

Stern, of Facebook, supports the company’s efforts at transparency.

Donald Trump, U.S.
President Donald Trump speaks at a rally endorsing the Republican ticket in Erie, Pennsylvania, VOA

“Having a system that people view as legitimate and basically fair even when they don’t agree with any individual decision that we’ve made is extremely important,” he said.

Also Read: Obama On Why Its Important To Vote In This Midterm Eledtions

The stepped-up efforts to give users more clarity about the rules and the steps to challenge decisions are signs Facebook is moving in the right direction, Stanford’s Keller said.

“We need to understand that it is built into the system that there will be a fair amount of failure and there needs to be appeals process and transparency to address that,” she said. (VOA)

Next Story

Experts Urging Users to Change their Facebook Passwords and Turn on Two-Factor Authentication

Facebook in a blog post on Thursday said that it had fixed the issue and will be notifying everyone whose passwords it found stored this way

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Facebook in a blog post on Thursday said that it had fixed the issue and will be notifying everyone whose passwords it found stored this way. Pixabay

After a report revealed around 200-600 million Facebook users may have had their account passwords stored in plain text and searchable by over 20,000 Facebook employees, cybersecurity experts are urging users to change their passwords and turn on the two-factor authentication (2FA).

So far the inquiry has uncovered archives with plain text user passwords dating back to 2012, according to the report published this week by KrebsOnSecurity, a blog run by journalist Brian Krebs.

Facebook in a blog post on Thursday said that it had fixed the issue and will be notifying everyone whose passwords it found stored this way.

“It’s perfectly possible that no passwords at all fell into the hands of any crooks as a result of this. But if any passwords did get into the wrong hands then you can expect them to be abused,” said Paul Ducklin, Senior Technologist at global cybersecurity firm Sophos.

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Facebook said it had found no evidence to date that anyone internally abused or improperly accessed the passwords. Pixabay

“Hashed passwords still need to be cracked before they can be used; plaintext passwords are the real deal without any further hacking or cracking needed,” Ducklin added.

Facebook said it had found no evidence to date that anyone internally abused or improperly accessed the passwords.

“While the details of the incident are still emerging, this is likely an accidental programming error that led to the logging of plain text credentials. That said, this should never have happened and Facebook needs to ensure that no user credentials or data were compromised as a result of this error,” said John Shier, Senior Security Advisor at Sophos.

“This is also another reminder for people who are still reusing passwords or using weak passwords to change their Facebook password to something strong and unique and to turn on two-factor authentication (2FA),” Shier said. Turning on 2FA would mean that a password alone is not enough for crooks to raid your account, Ducklin added.

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Turning on 2FA would mean that a password alone is not enough for crooks to raid your account, Ducklin added. Pixabay

Facebook also asked people to change their passwords “out of an abundance of caution”.

Earlier this month, Facebook came under scrutiny for using phone numbers provided for security reasons — like two-factor authentication (2FA) — for things like advertising and making users searchable by their phone numbers across its different platforms.

ALSO READ: New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern Receives Death Threats on Social Media

“Another security measure users can implement to strengthen their digital security postures is to use different passwords for different online accounts. Don’t use your Facebook password for any other login, particularly for personal/professional email accounts or online banking,” said Sanjay Katkar, Joint Managing Director and Chief Technology Officer, Quick Heal Technologies Limited.

“It is also a good practice to log out whenever not using Facebook, even on mobile devices,” Katkar added. (IANS)