Facebook will release more data about election interference, but only after the election

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Amid growing pressure to remove bad actors from Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that the company would likely release more information about problematic content posted to the service during elections. But to ensure the accuracy of the data, Zuckerberg said, the reports will likely come after the elections are over. The move could help government officials, academic researchers, and concerned citizens understand whether Facebook’s increased attention to abuse is working — but the timing could make it harder for grasp what’s happening when it arguably matters most.

During a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Zuckerberg took questions on a range of subjects surrounding the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal and…

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Facebook has released a more detailed plan to fight election interference for the 2018 midterms

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More political ad oversight, less fake news.

Did Facebook unknowingly help Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election?

We’ll probably never know, but Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg are trying to avoid another instance in the future where that might even be a question.

The company published a blog post on Thursday outlining some of the steps it’s taking to prevent foreign governments from using Facebook to try and manipulate an election, like Russian actors did on Facebook during the 2016 campaign.

A lot of the steps are things Facebook has already talked about‚ like fact-checking stories that show up in News Feed and adding stricter requirements for advertisers who buy political ads on the social network.

The most notable update is that Facebook started fact-checking photos and videos this week in France, in addition to fact checking text stories that people share. “We’re starting in France with the AFP [Agence France-Presse] and will be scaling to more countries and partners soon,” the post reads.

A few other things Facebook is doing:

  • The social network is notifying people who share fake news that they shared fake news, and also wants to “warn people who try to share it going forward.”
  • Facebook is close to rolling out the new political ad dashboard that it announced last fall. The dashboard will let people see who is buying what political ads, and the company has already been testing it in Canada. It plans to roll it out in the U.S. this summer.
  • Facebook is trying to prevent bad actors from getting started at all. The company says it’s blocking “millions of fake accounts each day at the point of creation.”

Will all this work? That’s the big question.

In an interview with The New York Times this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company is expecting that foreign governments like Russia will continue to meddle if they can.

“I feel a lot better about the systems now. At the same time, I think Russia and other governments are going to get more sophisticated in what they do, too,” Zuckerberg said. “So we need to make sure that we up our game. This is a massive focus for us to make sure we’re dialed in for not only the 2018 elections in the U.S., but the Indian elections, the Brazilian elections, and a number of other elections that are going on this year that are really important.”

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No, postcards won’t solve our Russian interference problem

We just learned all the ways Russian propaganda agents fooled American social media companies, thanks to the recent indictments of Russian nationals by Team Mueller. After years of these companies forcing us to adhere to their contrived "community s…
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Bill Gates cautions Apple and other tech companies about arrogance inviting government interference

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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has warned Apple and other tech companies that they need to exercise care when dealing with governments over important issues, such as the San Bernardino fight between Apple and the FBI over a locked iPhone, suggesting the firms may be inviting government intervention for overtly arrogant actions.
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YouTube found ‘no interference’ from Russia during Brexit vote

YouTube says that it hasn't found any evidence of Russian interference during the UK's Brexit vote in 2016. Members of parliament aren't satisfied, however, and are asking for the video network to examine clips of Russian origin, not just ads, accor…
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Senators grill tech companies about Russian interference, but don’t get very far

A bipartisan group of Senators grilled tech companies today about how Russians used their platforms to interfere in the 2016 election, calling on them to better monitor abuse in the future. A subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary committee challenged top lawyers from Facebook, Google, and Twitter on the potential use of shell companies to hide advertiser identities, the malicious use of bot networks, and the limited capabilities of existing ad review policies. But despite the bipartisan appeal of criticizing the tech companies in public, it’s not clear what, if anything, will come of the critiques.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter sent top legal officials to Washington this week for a series of hearings about Russian interference in 2016…

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U.S. lawmakers investigating Russia’s election interference are still missing key evidence from Facebook

They have ads, but not a full download of everything posted by the 470 Russia-tied profiles and pages.

Congressional investigators who are studying Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election are still missing a key tranche of evidence: The posts and other content penned by Kremlin-tied accounts on Facebook.

Earlier this month, the social giant fulfilled its pledge to turn over to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees a copy of roughly 3,000 advertisements purchased by 470 Russian-backed accounts identified on its platform. Many of those ads sought to stoke racial, religious and other social political tensions in a bid to cause political unrest in the United States, sources have said.

But those advertisements also linked back to specific Facebook profiles and pages — hubs like the gun-glorifying page Defend the 2nd, as reported by publications like The New York Times, as well as others targeting gay rights and groups like Black Lives Matter. And those since-deleted profiles and pages contained a full trove of content — posts that were written or shared, but not necessarily promoted — that hasn’t actually been provided in full with congressional leaders, according to sources familiar with the matter.

That body of data is crucial. Facebook on its own has revealed that approximately 10 million U.S. users saw the 3,000 Russian bought ads before and after Election Day. But it is not clear how far and wide those same accounts’ free posts — what normally might be described as organic — have spread on the platform.

For now, at least one study — first reported by The Washington Post earlier this week — has found that just six of the profiles flagged by Facebook for their ties to the Kremlin had their free content shared 340 million times. In that report, “share” is defined as content that appeared in users’ news feeds, not whether users actually interacted with it.

Asked about the data it’s provided to federal lawmakers, a spokesman for Facebook declined comment. But the aide did point Recode to the company’s previous blog post from September 21, which said Facebook would turn over the “content of these ads, along with related information, to congressional investigators.”

A spokeswoman for Sen. Richard Burr, the leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee, did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner, declined comment. House lawmakers did not respond to emailed questions Friday.

For now, the Senate panel along with its House counterpart are reviewing the information they’ve already obtained from Facebook as well as its tech peers, Google and Twitter, ahead of two scheduled hearings on social media and the 2016 presidential election. Facebook and Twitter have confirmed they plan to testify at those back-to-back sessions, slated for November 1, but Google has not commented on its attendance.

To Warner, at least, a key concern entering the hearing is the extent to which Russian forces purchased ads and created false accounts “that would drive interest toward stories or groups,” with the goal to “sow chaos and drive division in our country,” he said at a press conference earlier this week.

And Burr, for his part, has emphasized the United States is still vulnerable to election interference. “The Russian intelligence service is determined, clever, and I recommend every campaign and every election official take this very seriously as we move into this November’s election,” the Republican chairman said.

Obtaining the missing data directly from Facebook could be crucial for congressional lawmakers probing the extent of Russia’s 2016 election meddling.

The company already has shut down the 470 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed online troll farm. And while lawmakers and their aides might be able to obtain the contents of those profiles and pages using some of the web’s archive tools, much as some reporters have done, Facebook could make it much easier on Congress by providing the data in full.

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Read Mark Zuckerberg’s full speech on how Facebook is fighting back against Russia’s election interference

Zuckerberg went live on his Facebook page on Thursday to share the company’s plans.

It’s clear that part of Russia’s efforts to interfere in last year’s U.S. presidential election involved spreading misinformation and propaganda on Facebook.

Now CEO Mark Zuckerberg is promising to improve Facebook’s technology and safeguards so that others can’t abuse the service during future elections like they did last fall.

Zuckerberg, who returned from paternity leave on Thursday, delivered an address over Facebook Live, outlining the company’s plans.

Here’s a full transcript of his comments, courtesy of his own Facebook page:

Live discussing Russian election interference.

Live discussing Russian election interference and our next steps to protect the integrity of the democratic process.

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, September 21, 2017

Today is my first day back in the office after taking parental leave. It was really special to be with Priscilla and August after she was born, and to get to spend some more time with Max.

While I was out on leave, I spent a lot of time with our teams on the question of Russian interference in the US elections. I made some decisions on the next steps we’re taking, and I want to share those with you now.

First, let me say this. I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity. Facebook’s mission is all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together. Those are deeply democratic values and we’re proud of them. I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That’s not what we stand for.

The integrity of our elections is fundamental to democracy around the world. That’s why we’ve built teams dedicated to working on election integrity and preventing governments from interfering in the elections of other nations. And as we’ve shared before, our teams have found and shut down thousands of fake accounts that could be attempting to influence elections in many countries, including recently in the French elections.

Now, I wish I could tell you we’re going to be able to stop all interference, but that wouldn’t be realistic. There will always be bad people in the world, and we can’t prevent all governments from all interference. But we can make it harder. We can make it a lot harder. And that’s what we’re going to do.

So today I want to share the steps we’re taking to protect election integrity and make sure that Facebook is a force for good in democracy. While the amount of problematic content we’ve found so far remains relatively small, any attempted interference is a serious issue. Here are 9 things we’ll be working on over the next few months:

1. We are actively working with the US government on its ongoing investigations into Russian interference. We have been investigating this for many months, and for a while we had found no evidence of fake accounts linked to Russia running ads. When we recently uncovered this activity, we provided that information to the special counsel. We also briefed Congress — and this morning I directed our team to provide the ads we’ve found to Congress as well. As a general rule, we are limited in what we can discuss publicly about law enforcement investigations, so we may not always be able to share our findings publicly. But we support Congress in deciding how to best use this information to inform the public, and we expect the government to publish its findings when their investigation is complete.

2. We will continue our investigation into what happened on Facebook in this election. We may find more, and if we do, we will continue to work with the government. We are looking into foreign actors, including additional Russian groups and other former Soviet states, as well as organizations like the campaigns, to further our understanding of how they used our tools. These investigations will take some time, but we will continue our thorough review.

3. Going forward — and perhaps the most important step we’re taking — we’re going to make political advertising more transparent. When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they’re required by law to disclose who paid for them. But you still don’t know if you’re seeing the same messages as everyone else. So we’re going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook. We will roll this out over the coming months, and we will work with others to create a new standard for transparency in online political ads.

4. We will strengthen our ad review process for political ads. To be clear, it has always been against our policies to use any of our tools in a way that breaks the law — and we already have many controls in place to prevent this. But we can do more. Most ads are bought programmatically through our apps and website without the advertiser ever speaking to anyone at Facebook. That’s what happened here. But even without our employees involved in the sales, we can do better.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you we’re going to catch all bad content in our system. We don’t check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don’t think our society shouldn’t want us to. Freedom means you don’t have to ask permission first, and that by default you can say what you want. If you break our community standards or the law, then you’re going to face consequences afterwards. We won’t catch everyone immediately, but we can make it harder to try to interfere.

5. We are increasing our investment in security and specifically election integrity. In the next year, we will more than double the team working on election integrity. In total, we’ll add more than 250 people across all our teams focused on security and safety for our community.

6. We will expand our partnerships with election commissions around the world. We already work with electoral commissions in many countries to help people register to vote and learn about the issues. We’ll keep doing that, and now we’re also going to establish a channel to inform election commissions of the online risks we’ve identified in their specific elections.

7. We will increase sharing of threat information with other tech and security companies. We already share information on bad actors on the internet through programs like ThreatExchange, and now we’re exploring ways we can share more information about anyone attempting to interfere with elections. It is important that tech companies collaborate on this because it’s almost certain that any actor trying to misuse Facebook will also be trying to abuse other internet platforms too.

8. We are working proactively to strengthen the democratic process. Beyond pushing back against threats, we will also create more services to protect our community while engaging in political discourse. For example, we’re looking at adapting our anti-bullying systems to protect against political harassment as well, and we’re scaling our ballot information tools to help more people understand the issues.

9. We have been working to ensure the integrity of the German elections this weekend, from taking actions against thousands of fake accounts, to partnering with public authorities like the Federal Office for Information Security, to sharing security practices with the candidates and parties. We’re also examining the activity of accounts we’ve removed and have not yet found a similar type of effort in Germany. This is incredibly important and we have been focused on this for a while.

At the same time, it’s important not to lose sight of the more straightforward and larger ways Facebook plays a role in elections — and these effects operate at much larger scales of 100x or 1000x bigger than what we’re discussing here.

In 2016, people had billions of interactions and open discussions on Facebook that may never have happened offline. Candidates had direct channels to communicate with tens of millions of citizens. Campaigns spent tens of millions organizing and advertising online to get their messages out further. And we organized “get out the vote” efforts that helped as many as 2 million people register to vote who might not have voted otherwise. Many of these dynamics were new in this election, or at much larger scale than ever before in history, and at much larger scale than the interference we’ve found.

But we are in a new world. It is a new challenge for internet communities to deal with nation states attempting to subvert elections. But if that’s what we must do, we are committed to rising to the occasion. Our sophistication in handling these threats is growing and improving quickly. We will continue working with the government to understand the full extent of Russian interference, and we will do our part not only to ensure the integrity of free and fair elections around the world, but also to give everyone a voice and to be a force for good in democracy everywhere.

Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll keep you updated with more soon.

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Facebook agrees to give Congress ads linked to Russian election interference

In a major reversal, Facebook agreed today to share with Congress more than 3,000 ads linked to a Kremlin-linked group believed to attempted to influence the US political election. The company had previously given the ads to Robert Mueller, the special counsel currently investigating Russian interference in the presidential election. Facebook had resisted sharing the information more broadly, saying it would threaten advertiser’s privacy.

“Disclosing content is not something we do lightly under any circumstances,” Colin Stretch, the company’s general counsel, said in a blog post. “We are deeply committed to safeguarding user content, regardless of the user’s nationality, and ads are user content. Federal law also places strict…

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Representative Adam Schiff called for Facebook to testify before Congress on Russian online interference

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee also called out President Donald Trump for “juvenile” retweeting.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, stepped up political criticism of Facebook and other social media outlets and called for testimony about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election using their platforms.

Earlier this week, Recode reported that a Senate committee that’s investigating was already discussing whether to invite representatives from Facebook and Twitter to testify about misinformation spread on their websites.

And today on ABC’s “This Week,” Schiff was asked about the situation by George Stephanopoulos, who noted that the social media giant turned over information to Special Counsel Robert Mueller that “entities connected to Russia bought at least $ 150,000 in targeted ads during last year’s presidential campaign, information they have not turned over to your committee.”

Last week, as Tony Romm reported, Facebook said that “Russian-controlled pages and accounts spent $ 100,000 on ads meant to ‘amplify divisive social and political messages’ before the election.’” The social networking giant has not publicly released the contents of those ads, citing “privacy” concerns.

Schiff responded that his committee was also planning on asking for a lot more information from Facebook, noting “there are a lot of unanswered questions.”

Schiff became more pointed as he spoke, adding that he was “distressed that it has taken us this long to be informed that the Russians had paid for at least $ 100,000 of ads designed to try to influence our electoral process.”

He issued a warning. “We need to know the full extent of their use of social media to influence us from Facebook, from Twitter, from Google, from any social media or search engine,” Schiff said. “They need to be fully forthcoming. And I’m confident they will. I think, frankly, they need to come and testify before Congress because there’s a lot we need to know about this.”

Schiff also commented on a retweet President Donald Trump did today, which depicted him swinging at a golf ball that then hit and knocked over a woman who looked like his Democratic presidential foe Hillary Clinton.

“It is distressing, though, to have a president that, frankly, will tweet and retweet things as juvenile as that,” said Schiff. “It doesn’t help, I think, in terms of his stature. It doesn’t help in terms of the stature of our whole country.”

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