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Facebook can’t tackle election interference on its own, governments must pitch in, says Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that the company could not tackle the crisis around election misinformation campaigns on its own, and that individual countries, not social media companies, should be determining which types of election advertising are allowed on social media, CNBC reported. In conversation with Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Zuckerberg also said the US government’s weak response to alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections was a mistake, which signaled to other countries that “Ok. We’re open for business.” Since then, he said, Facebook has seen increased activity from Iran and other countries. He added that while Facebook has “ramped up massively” on security, there was very little it could do on its own to change the incentives for nation states to act. “That’s something that is a little bit above our pay grade,” he said.

Facebook considering separate policy for deepfakes

Pressed on why Facebook was slow to respond to a “deepfake” video of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi in May, Zuckerberg said the company had made an “execution mistake” and that it was reevaluating its policies around deepfakes, Politico reported. He said Facebook was considering creating a newer, clearer policy definition for deepfakes to better distinguish them from traditional misinformation. While Facebook has policies to delete spam and contain the spread of misinformation, deepfakes may be “actually just a completely different category of things from normal, false statements overall,” he said.

Breaking up Facebook ‘wouldn’t solve anything’

Zuckerberg also addressed growing calls from people including presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and Facebook co-Founder Chris Hughes to break up Facebook and other tech giants, saying that Facebook’s scale helps it address issues like misinformation and privacy, and pointed out that smaller companies such as Twitter and Reddit face the same challenges. He said if Facebook was broken up, “you would [still] have those issues, you’d just be much less equipped to deal with them.”

Facebook rolls out political ad transparency tools worldwide

A day before Zuckerberg’s appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Facebook announced that it was making its transparency tools for political ads available globally. The move came more than a year after it first launched the tools in the US, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytics scandal, and four months after it introduced the tools in India ahead of the 2019 General Elections.

It said that ads on Facebook around social issues, elections or politics appearing in 140 countries and territories (see the full list here) will now have a “paid for by” disclaimer, and remain in Facebook’s Ad Library for seven years. The tool was previously available in 50 countries and territories. Facebook said it was “expanding proactive enforcement” now given approaching elections or regulations in Ukraine, Singapore, Canada and Argentina. “Beginning today, we will systematically detect and review ads in Ukraine and Canada through a combination of automated and human review,” Facebook wrote. “In Singapore and Argentina, we will begin enforcement within the next few months. We also plan to roll out the Ad Library Report in both of those countries after enforcement is in place.” The company added that in all cases, it would be up to the advertiser to comply with electoral or advertising laws in the countries they wished to run ads in. “With these tools, regulators are now better positioned to consider how to protect elections with sensible regulations, which they are uniquely suited to do,” Facebook said.

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It also said it had expanded access to its Ad Library API globally so that journalists, regulators and others could investigate ads and help hold advertisers and Facebook accountable. “Since we expanded access in March, we’ve made improvements to our API so people can easily access ads from a given country and analyse specific advertisers. We’re also working on making it easier to programmatically access ad images, videos and recently served ads,” Facebook added.

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