Facebook introduced a way for partners to fact check photos and videos beyond news articles, and they can also look over stories before Facebook asks them. The social media giant is also preventing the creation and use of fake accounts each day. Facebook shared this information via a news conference and a blog post about its work to improve election integrity, including Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos, who is rumored to leave the company this year.
Stamos shared how Facebook is finding new ways to call out the fake accounts and false identities on its website. The number of fake accounts have grown so much over the years, and it only lead to problems like spreading false information. These fake accounts are only there to stir the pot, and Stamos acknowledged the problem with them. “It’s important to match the right approach to each of these challenges” Stamos says, explaining that Facebook customize its solutions to these problems for different countries around the world.
Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s product manager for civic engagement, added that Facebook is now actively looking for foreign-based pages making civic-related content falsely. It takes them away from the platform if a manual review by the security team sees that they violate terms of service.
“This proactive approach has allowed us to move more quickly and has become a really important way for us to prevent divisive or misleading memes from going viral” Chakrabarti said. Facebook first used this tool in the Alabama special election, but has now launched it to protect Italian elections and will use it for the U.S. mid-term elections.
At the same time, advances in machine learning have allowed Facebook “to find more suspicious behaviors without assessing the content itself” to prevent millions of fake account creations per day “before they can do any harm”, according to Chakrabarti.
Facebook began its first slew of election protections back in December 2016, including working with third-party fact checkers to flag articles as false. As of Wednesday, Facebook’s fact checking partners began overlooking suspicious photos and videos which can also share false information. This could shorten the spread of false news image memes that live on Facebook and require no extra clicks to view, like photoshopped photos showing the Parkland school shooting survivors tearing up the constitution.
Usually, Facebook shares fact checkers stories that are being flagged by users and going viral. But now in countries like Italy and Mexico because of elections, Facebook enlisted fact checkers to proactively flag things because in some cases they can identify false stories that are spreading before Facebook’s own systems. “To reduce latency in advance of elections, we wanted to ensure we gave fact checkers that ability,” Facebook’s News Feed product manager Tessa Lyons said.
With the mid-terms approaching soon, Facebook must secure its systems against election interference, as well as convince users and regulators that it’s made real progress since the 2016 presidential election where Russian meddlers played a huge role. If not, Facebook faces another endless news cycle about it being harmful to democracy that could cause reduced user engagement and government intervention.