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Facebook insists that it isn’t actually shutting down its election war room

Facebook insists that it isn’t actually shutting down its election war room
[Photo: courtesy of Facebook]

In the months leading up to the midterm election, Facebook created a “war room” to help spot trouble, stamp down misinformation, and fix issues before they spread across the social network.

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The war room came about in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica controversy and the realization that Russians used the platform to try to influence the 2016 presidential election. It basically consisted of a strategic response team staffed with employees from across the company’s many divisions and offshoots, including reportedly reps from WhatsApp, Instagram, threat intelligence, data science, legal and more, all banding together, Voltron-like, in the hopes of stopping election tampering. War room workers monitored the viral spread of articles across the internet, worked with fact checkers to debunk memes and stories, nudged misinformation down newsfeeds (but not banning fake news outright on principle), looked for suspicious spikes in spam and hate speech, and kept an eye on memes or posts aimed at voter suppression.

They were pretty good at their job, too, according to Bloomberg, helping fight the spread of misinformation during the recent Brazilian presidential election and coordinating Facebook’s response to election-related issues as they arose, including putting together a rapid response to an FBI tip about potential Russian activity, which Bloomberg notes would have “previously taken the company longer to address.” While Facebook is still trying to find its way through the prickly crossroads between politics and social media, they think the war room is pretty effective, so effective that they are going to expand the program in the future.

Bloomberg reported this morning that the election war room was disbanded–but the move is only a temporary one, according to a Facebook rep. The team was disbanded and the resources freed up since the U.S. midterms and the Brazilian election are over. When the next election cycle begins, Facebook plans to get the war room band back together. “Our war room effort is focused specifically on elections-related issues and is designed to rapidly respond to threats such as voter suppression efforts and civic-related misinformation,” a Facebook spokesperson told Fast Company. “It was an effective effort during the recent U.S. and Brazil elections, and we are planning to expand the effort going forward for elections around the globe.

This statement was seconded by Facebook’s VP of Product Guy Rosen on Twitter:

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