Facebook – the American social media giant that has been under fire after it admitted that it was unable to curtail the misuse of information posted on its platform during several key elections over the last year – has announced that it will step up its efforts to fight fake news and disinformation ahead of elections in the EU, India, Israel and Ukraine later this year.
Facebook’s Vice President for Global Affairs and Communications, former UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, announced that the company will set up an office in Ireland’s capital Dublin whose sole purpose will be to act as an “operations centre focused on guaranteeing the integrity of elections” Clegg said.
“This approach will help boost our rapid response efforts to fight misinformation, bringing together dozens of experts from across the company – including from our threat intelligence, data science, engineering, research, community operations and legal teams,” Clegg said, who added, “They will work closely with the lawmakers, election commissions, other tech companies, academics and civil society groups to continue the fight against fake news, prevent the spread of voter suppression efforts and further integrate the large number of teams working on these important issues across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.”
In addition to monitoring the platform for disinformation, Facebook will publicise its political advertising archives in Europe, including ads that deal with hot button topics that include immigration or taxation, that do not directly promote a party or a candidate but promote discussions that aim to influence the political debate in an election.
The information made available to the public will contain details about the amount of money spent and the number of posts publicly displayed, as well as who paid for the posts and details about the demographics of those who accessed the information- including age, gender, and location.
“We have seen how Facebook and other applications of the group, Whatsapp, Instagram and Messenger, can be misused in elections and we have learned hard lessons,” added Clegg, referring to the controversies over interference in polls allowed by the use of Facebook applications in several elections.
The European Commission is expected to take further actions concerning platforms that have signed its code of conduct, which include Facebook, but have failed to implement measures to ensure more transparency when it comes political advertising.
Clegg also announced that users will be able to request feedback when they feel that their posts have been unfairly suppressed by the social network’s moderators. These digital “courts of appeal” will operate at a regional level as Facebook already has country-specific rules that depend on national legislation.
The tools to be used in the European Union are analogues of those adopted for the US mid-term elections that were held in November, according to Clegg.
Selling people’s information to advertisers would not only be the wrong thing to do, but it would also undermine the way we do business because it would reduce the unique value of our service to advertisers,” said Clegg echoed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg‘s defence of data harvesting, who often warns that attempts to clamp down on data harvesting by American businesses risk handing the future of innovation to China.
“The Chinese approach could well lead to some large-scale improvements like better health outcomes – benefits derived from the mass capture and analysis of data – but it could equally be put to more sinister surveillance ends, as we have seen with the Chinese government’s controversial social credit system,” Clegg said.