Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a pledge during a live broadcast on his profile Thursday to protect “election integrity” — a response to clamoring over a Russia firm’s apparent attempt to influence U.S. politics on the platform.
“The integrity of our elections is fundamental to democracy around the world,” said Zuckerberg. “That’s why we’ve built teams dedicated to working on election integrity and preventing governments from interfering in the elections of other nations.”
The tech wunderkind plans on fulfilling this pledge in a number of ways, including by cooperating with congressional investigators and focusing more resources on the detection and potential censorship of violators. So far he and his company seem to be making an effort to satisfy the promise.
“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,” said Zuckerberg, while enumerating a number of other changes.
Facebook also announced Thursday that it is providing information related to the 3,000 ads it found earlier in the month to authorities. The ads “appear” to have originated from a Russian entity that may have ties to the Kremlin. While reports have alleged that the social media company was already complying with official investigators, the evidence is now confirmed to be in the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Most of the purveyed advertisements reportedly did not focus on then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump or then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and the total sales amounted to $100,000. As Axios reporter Sara Fischer notes, that is a very small amount, especially in a two-year time span.
The majority of the ads touched on highly contentious social issues, like race, gun rights, gay rights, and immigration. Facebook recently confirmed that Russian operatives deceitfully organized and promulgated political protests in America through the ads, according to The Daily Beast.
Facebook told The Daily Beast that it “shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown described last week” and specified that one of the events focused on aggressive advocacy for vastly curbing immigration rates.
The small number of ads relative to the larger, massive political advertisement ecosystem means that the ultimate impact on the election was likely limited. But the prospect of Russian companies with connections to the Kremlin trying to cultivate a more schismatic political landscape in America further worries lawmakers who long feared Russia’s influence on the U.S. presidential election.
Facebook isn’t the only tech company working with federal officials. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said earlier in the month that he anticipates Twitter will also soon brief congressional investigators on Russian activity on its platform, according to The Wall Street Journal.
But Facebook’s cooperation is more telling than Twitter’s because it seems to show a growing shift from Zuckerberg. (RELATED: Obama Gave Zuckerberg A Talking-To About Facebook’s ‘Fake News’ Problem, Says Report)
But economists at Stanford and New York University conducted a study that showed otherwise.
And, most notably, Zuckerberg originally called “the idea that fake news on Facebook” — which he clarified was a “very small amount of the content” — could influence the election “pretty crazy.”
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