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Facebook announces steps to protect US 2020 elections; no mention of fact-checking political ads

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Facebook has announced a host of steps to protect US Presidential candidates for the 2020 elections and reduce foreign interference in the elections. With Facebook Protect, it will offer candidates, elected officials, federal and state departments and agencies, party committees, and their staff stronger account security protections such as two factor authentication. Facebook will also monitor accounts of people who opt-in to this service for potential hacking.

These new policies come at a time when Facebook has been criticised for not fact checking political advertisements, and a leaked audio call of CEO Mark Zuckerberg talking to his employees has surfaced where he promises to fight back against any calls for breaking up the company.

Ad-spend tracker, confirmed page owner among policy changes

Confirmed page owner: Pages will now have a new “Organisations That Manage This Page” tab, featuring its “confirmed” owner, including the organisation’s legal name and verified city, phone number or website. If Facebook finds a Page to be concealing its ownership, it will be required to successfully complete the verification process and show more information in order to stay up.

Labelling state sponsored media: From November 2019, the company will start labelling media outlets that are wholly or partially under the editorial control of a government as state-controlled media.

Ad-spend tracker: This transparency feature includes a U.S. presidential candidate spend tracker, more geographic spending details, information on which apps an ad appears on and programmatic access to downloads of political ad creative.

Labelling false/incorrect content: Over the next month, content across Facebook and Instagram that has been rated false or partly false by a third-party fact checker will start to be more prominently labelled. Facebook didn’t say who these third-party fact checkers are.

Banning voter-suppression ads: Facebook also said it’ll apply a wider ban on advertisements that are targeted towards voter suppression.

Reducing foreign interference in the 2020 US elections: Facebook said that it removed four foreign interference operations including one which targeted the 2020 US presidential elections. One of these networks  was likely being run by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), which was behind the attempted Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential elections. The campaign used 50 Instagram accounts and one Facebook account with about 246,000 followers to publish nearly 75,000 posts, according to Graphika, which analysed the network for Facebook. In total, the company removed:

  • 93 Facebook accounts, 17 Pages and four Instagram accounts originating from Iran and focusing primarily on the US for “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. About 7,700 accounts followed one or more of these Pages and around 145 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
  • 38 Facebook accounts, 6 Pages, 4 Groups and 10 Instagram accounts originating from Iran and focusing on countries in Latin America. About 13,500 accounts followed one or more of these Pages, about 4,200 accounts joined at least one of these Groups and around 60,000 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
  • 4 Facebook accounts, 3 Pages and 7 Instagram accounts that originated in Iran and focused mainly on the US.

Nothing on fact-checking political ads

There was no announcement on fact checking political advertisements on the platform. If politicians continue spreading fake news and misinformation on Facebook via political ads, there is no Facebook policy to stop them from doing so. Case in point being US Presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren intentionally advertising an article which suggested that  Zuckerberg endorsed Donald Trump for the upcoming US elections.

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