A group of 12 reporters recently visited Facebook’s European headquarters to meet their team dedicated to combating fake-news and misinformation before this month’s European Parliamentary elections. Journalists from The New York Times, The Guardian, Politico and more provided detailed reporting of the 40 person team monitoring for content across 24 languages that violates Facebook’s rules.
The effort by Facebook mirrors their operation to fight the scourge of fake news during the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. It also comes after EU regulators demanded that internet giants like Facebook and Twitter play more of a self-regulating role to keep election information on their platforms accurate. Facebook has established a similar misinformation “war room” in Singapore to monitor the coming elections in India, where fake news on their WhatsApp platform is plaguing the world’s largest democracy.
In a sparsely-decorated office in Dublin, @facebook staffers are working to protect the upcoming #EUElection2019. But POLITICO has found evidence of dozens of political ads that got through FB’s transparency net, raising the question: is FB doing enough?https://t.co/j7pdAVKmVb pic.twitter.com/pekQKprOOZ
— Mark Scott (@markscott82) May 5, 2019
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, was quoted as saying, “we are fundamentally dealing with a security challenge. There are a set of actors that want to manipulate public debate,” during the meeting with journalists.
Convincing an increasingly skeptical press that Facebook can be a responsible news aggregator and data manager seems to be a top priority for the company in their newest public relations push.
But Facebook is facing intense scrutiny from more than just journalists. Governments across the world are threatening new regulations and penalties for mismanagement. The Mueller report revealed in stark terms the extent to which nefarious actors are leveraging Facebook, Whatsapp and Facebook-owned Instagram. Perhaps most importantly, Facebook’s U.S. usership has dropped by 15 million since 2017.
Bowing to these pressures, Facebook made the decision last week to ban seven figures who spread dangerous misinformation, including Alex Jones, Louis Farrakhan, Laura Loomer and others, as part of their larger campaign to calm the firestorm. But these bans are mostly symbolic compared to the scale of issues Facebook faces with misinformation and data privacy.
Facebook banned several "dangerous" high-profile personalities from its social media platforms Thursday, becoming the latest tech company to officially declare them persona non grata.https://t.co/GfP3mtdMxN
— NPR (@NPR) May 3, 2019
Recent polls show that a majority of Americans now have little trust in the platform after several scandals related to election interference and user privacy chipped away at the social media giant’s credibility. Just last week, researchers revealed that WhatsApp’s users in Spain were “flooded” with fake news and hateful memes leading up to the April 28th Spanish election.
But Facebook remains hopeful that their efforts can start to turn the tide of discontent.
“At the end of the day, this isn’t just about building some new products. It’s a major shift in how we run this company,” said Facebook’s Mark Zuckerburg at last week’s F8 developer conference.