Facebook has removed 652 pages, groups, and accounts that originated in Iran and Russia and sought to covertly spread political content to users in the United States, United Kingdom, Latin America, and the Middle East, the company announced Tuesday.
The accounts were in violation of Facebook's terms of service due to "coordinated inauthentic behavior." These campaigns were separate and Facebook has not been able to find any connection between them, but they used "similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing," Facebook said in a blog post.
Cybersecurity experts were able to determine that some of the pages were linked to Iranian state media, and others to Russian military intelligence services. The Iranian accounts were able to spend more than $12,000 on ads and hosted more than 20 events, Facebook said, and also attempted to spread malware. Catherine Garcia
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is promising users to do what he can to keep fake news and hoaxes off the social network.
The goal of Facebook is to "give every person a voice," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page late Saturday night, and after the election, people are asking if fake news contributed to the result and if Facebook has any responsibility to prevent such false information from spreading. "Out of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic," he said. "Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics." While overall it is "extremely unlikely" hoaxes had any effect on the election, Zuckerberg said, he doesn't want any hoaxes on the site, period.
"Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news," he said. "We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here." Zuckerberg said Facebook will share with users the changes they might eventually make to the News Feed, adding he's "proud" of the role the company took in the election, including helping "more than 2 million people register to vote" and connecting people to candidates "so they could hear from them directly and be better informed." Catherine Garcia
Facebook's general counsel announced Monday that while Facebook was "unable to substantiate" allegations of "politically motivated suppression of particular subjects or sources" in its Trending Topics feature, the company is changing some of its policies to "minimize risks where human judgment is involved."
Facebook leaders met with prominent conservatives and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, last week after unidentified former Facebook workers in charge of curating Trending Topics alleged in Gizmodo that they and their coworkers suppressed conservative articles. General counsel Colin Stretch wrote on Monday that an investigation by the company has "revealed no evidence of systematic political bias in the selection or prominence of stories included in the Trending Topics feature. Our data analysis indicated that conservative and liberal topics are approved as trending topics at virtually identical rates."
Because the investigation could not "fully exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies," Stretch said, Facebook will now stop relying on certain websites and news outlets to "identify, validate, or assess the importance of particular topics," and will expand the Help Center content on Trending Topics. "We will continue to work to improve the feature, as well as to seek feedback from people who use our service to make sure we keep Facebook a platform for all ideas," he added. Catherine Garcia
On Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg met with more than a dozen leading conservatives, writing on Facebook that he wanted to discuss "how we can make sure Facebook continues to be a platform for all ideas across the political spectrum."
In his post, the Facebook CEO said that while "Silicon Valley has a reputation for being liberal," Facebook was built to be a "platform for all ideals. Our community's success depends on everyone feeling comfortable sharing anything they want. It doesn't make sense for our mission or our business to suppress political content or prevent anyone from seeing what matters most to them."
Recently, Gizmodo reported that former Facebook employees said conservative news stories were often suppressed from the trending topics section of the site. Facebook denied the claim, and in his post Wednesday, Zuckerberg wrote that he wanted to hear the concerns of conservatives "personally and have an open conversation about how we can build trust." The meeting was attended by Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, S.E. Cupp, Dana Perino, and several other media commentators, pollsters, and think tank leaders. Catherine Garcia
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is meeting Wednesday with conservative leaders to discuss how the social network approaches covering conservative news stories. Radio show host Glenn Beck said Sunday he plans to attend.
Among the other confirmed guests are the American Enterprise Institute's Arthur Brooks, CNN's S.E. Cupp, Fox's Dana Perino, and former Mitt Romney digital director Zac Moffatt, CNN reports. Donald Trump aide Barry Bennett is also set to attend, according to Politico.
Facebook's methodology of curating news has come under scrutiny in light of a recent Gizmodo report alleging that the site intentionally suppresses news from conservative sources. Facebook officials have repeatedly denied the claims. Julie Kliegman
Conservative pundit Glenn Beck is set to meet with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday as part of a summit addressing the social network's approach to covering conservative news, Beck said in a Facebook post Sunday. In a May report, Gizmodo alleged that Facebook intentionally suppresses conservative-leaning news stories.
"Mark wanted to meet with 8 or 10 of us to explain what happened and assure us that it won't happen again," Beck wrote.
Zuckerberg, while maintaining that the Gizmodo report wasn't accurate, vowed Thursday to listen to feedback from conservative leaders.
"Facebook truly is the only communal experience we now have in some ways," Beck wrote in criticizing the suppression of news. "We need to see what 'the other side' is talking about." Julie Kliegman
On Monday, the tech site Gizmodo caused quite a stir with an article alleging anti-conservative political manipulation at Facebook's Trending Topics feature, citing unidentified former Facebook employees. Late Monday, Tom Stocky, the Facebook vice president who oversees the Trending Topics team, hit back in a Facebook post. "We take these reports extremely seriously, and have found no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true," he wrote. He referred to the anonymous former team members as "Facebook contractors," and said that what they alleged to have done is implausible, if not impossible:
We have in place strict guidelines for our trending topic reviewers as they audit topics surfaced algorithmically: Reviewers are required to accept topics that reflect real world events, and are instructed to disregard junk or duplicate topics, hoaxes, or subjects with insufficient sources. Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to systematically discriminate against sources of any ideological origin and we've designed our tools to make that technically not feasible. At the same time, our reviewers' actions are logged and reviewed, and violating our guidelines is a fireable offense. [Stocky, Facebook]
Stocky also denied the Gizmodo allegations that Trending Topics added topics with a liberal bent, saying that his team looked into the charge that Facebook "artificially forced #BlackLivesMatter to trend," and they "found that it is untrue." You can read the entire post at Facebook. Peter Weber