In a live-streamed Facebook video today, CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out a plan for the company to combat election interference and improve ad transparency, and warned that it may still find more evidence of Russian meddling.
Separately, Facebook announced that it would also share the content of the 3,000 Russian-bought political ads that it has found with congressional investigators.
As the company comes under increasing scrutiny from the DOJ, Congress, and the public—and as Twitter readies to testify about election meddling next week–Zuckerberg’s statement sought to underscore Facebook’s mission: It’s “all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together,” he said. “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.”
But, Zuckerberg cautioned, when it comes to digital election interference, “we are in a new world.”
Here are 9 things he said Facebook will be working on over the next few months:
- “We are actively working with the U.S. 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.”
- “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.”
- “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 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.”
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “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.”
Zuckerberg also underscored Facebook’s extensive and positive role in elections:
“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.”
He also offered some important caveats about Facebook’s efforts against what it’s called “information operations”:
“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…”
Here’s Zuckerberg’s video:
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
Zuckerberg discussed the challenges of protecting free speech while policing the platform for fake news and other controversial content with Fast Company‘s Bob Safian for our April cover story. Check that out here, and read more about misinformation here.