Zuckerberg Says Facebook Will Do Best To Protect The Integrity Of Elections In India US Pakistan
WASHINGTON: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said his company wants to “make sure that we do everything we can to protect the integrity” of elections across the world, including in India, after acknowledging the social media giant has come up short in stemming misinformation and subversion of the electoral process.
The admission of weaknesses and the pledge to rectify it is particularly and immediately relevant in India as major political parties contend with the proliferation of fake news, propaganda, and trolling from bogus accounts over social media ahead of the upcoming elections.
In testimony before the US Congress that has lasted more than seven hours and is still ongoing into the second day, the young tech czar was a picture of humility and contrition – and some evasion — as he owned up Facebook’s shortcomings in front of US lawmakers, some of whom expressed distrust at both the company’s functioning and philosophy, and Zuckerberg’s own mea culpa.
Facebook, the founder acknowledged, was still on a learning curve and made mistakes, but it was moving quickly to address the challenges, including eventually growing its security and content review team to 20,000, although that may not be enough to meet the challenge.
Among the steps, Facebook had taken to forestall manipulation of elections is to deploy new artificial intelligence tools “that do a better job” of identifying fake accounts that may be trying to interfere in elections or spread misinformation. Calling it an “arms race,” the social media czar also warned that those intent on subverting elections are “going to keep on getting better at this, and we need to invest in keeping on getting better at this, too.” There were also limitations on how broadly, deeply, and in how many languages Facebook could monitor content.
As Zuckerberg ducked and weaved in the face searching questions about security and data breaches Facebook has owned up, often promising to have his team come back with more information and granular details, some lawmakers lit into him. “I’m not convinced that Facebook’s users have the information they need to make meaningful choices,” said Republican Senator John Thune, noting that at while Washington has “been willing to defer to tech companies effort to regulate themselves… this may be changing.” Added fellow Senator John Kennedy: “Your user agreement sucks…I don’t want to vote to have to regulate Facebook, but by God, I will.”
There were also questions about the philosophical tensions between Facebook’s professed claim of being an idealistic and optimistic company and its goal to make money for its shareholders. While some lawmakers, notably Republican Orrin Hatch, appeared sympathetic to the Facebook model of offering free service but using user data to make money, others such as New Hamshire Democrat Maggie Hassan said despite Zuckerberg’s protestations “at the end of the day your business model does prioritize advertisers over the mission.”
“There’s clearly tension between your bottom line and what’s best for your users,” Hassan said, warning, “I really firmly believe in free enterprise, but when private companies are unwilling or unable to do what is necessary, public officials have historically in every industry stepped up to protect our constituents and consumers.”
At the heart of the hearing were questions about Facebook’s security and privacy policies and how cavalier or not the company was in monetizing it without user consent. After Zuckerberg acknowledged that the firm Cambridge Analytica had gamed and mined Facebook users’ data in the 2016 US Presidential election, Democratic Senator Kamala Harris of California, nailed him for not informing users immediately that their data had been compromised — something Facebook did only this week.
Senator Harris: Did Facebook discuss notifying its users that their data had been taken by a researcher that worked Cambridge Analytica when the company found out about the data’s misuse?
Zuckerberg: Senator, in retrospect, we clearly view it as a mistake that we didn’t inform people and we did that based on false information that the case was closed and the data had been deleted.