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Zuckerberg arms Facebook for ‘fake news’ battle as elections near

Author: Washington Examiner - July 26, 2018 - Updated: August 9, 2018


New tools built by Facebook, one of the social media platforms that Russian agents employed to influence U.S. voters in 2016, will protect users from similar tactics in this fall’s elections far more effectively, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday.

Among the security mechanisms are artificial intelligence capabilities that removed thousands of fake accounts in the run-up to the Mexican presidential election earlier this year as well as votes in France, Germany and Alabama, Zuckerberg said.

Users will also be able to see the identity and location of advertisers running spots on Facebook as well as when specific pages were created and whether their names have been changed, said Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

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“The reason why we are so confident that we can get this right is that there have been several elections since 2016 that have had much better results” in terms of preventing misuse, Zuckerberg said on a second-quarter earnings call. “2016 was the first time that we saw this kind of coordinated information operation, and since then we’ve built a playbook out.”

Facebook and rival platforms like Twitter and YouTube, under a spotlight with U.S. elections a little more than three months away, are all monitoring their services closely to prevent false articles and posts like those used to sway — and inflame — voters in the 2016 presidential campaign where Donald Trump won an unexpected presidential victory against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

While Trump has rejected claims that his campaign cooperated with the Kremlin’s efforts, his firing of former FBI Director James Comey, whose agency was investigating the matter, merely heightened the controversy.

Comey’s dismissal led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller and a probe that the president routinely dismisses as a “witch hunt.” His allies in Congress, meanwhile, have sought to redirect attention from the role of social media in his campaign to questions over whether liberals in Silicon Valley are using efforts to prevent misuse of the platforms as a cover for censoring conservative views.

Facebook has also grappled with fallout from its disclosure that a Trump campaign consultant, Cambridge Analytica, improperly gained access to information on 87 million of its users. In the aftermath, Zuckerberg testified before two congressional committees, promising to better protect user information.

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While efforts to do so have begun to eat into profitability, with the company’s operating margin shrinking three points to 44 percent in the three months through June, Facebook won’t back down from the measures — or from honing core products that connect users with each other.

“We run this company for the long term, not the next quarter,” Zuckerberg said.

Total revenue climbed 42 percent in the second quarter to $13 billion, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company said, as average daily users surged to 1.47 billion per day. Net income grew 31 percent to $5.1 billion.

Washington Examiner

Washington Examiner