Recently Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress to testify about what his company plans to do before future elections to not continue to be co-opted by foreign governments or other special groups trying to influence elections. On Monday, October 2, Facebook announced it has turned over the more than 3,000 ads linked to the Russia-tied Internet Research Agency to congressional investigators in the wake of the Cambridge-Analytica scandal. In a blog post, the social media giant also further detailed the steps it’s taking to ensure greater transparency and authenticity of ads on the platform.
One such step is to hire more than 1,000 people over the next year who will review ads. Facebook also plans to invest more in machine learning to better identify and take down ads that violate its policies.
Last week, Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch announced the social media giant would release 3,000 Russia-linked political ads to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, after previously refusing to do so due to cited privacy concerns.
This followed the revelation that at least 470 fake Pages and accounts were identified by Facebook to have spent approximately $100,000 on promoted ads from 2015 to 2016. According to The Washington Post, at least some of these accounts were linked to the Internet Research Agency, a so-called “troll farm,” operated out of Russia. The influencers gave innocent-seeming psychological quizzes then targeted profiles they created on sensitive social issues such as homosexuality policies with negative press on issue linked to Hillary Clinton and positive information linked to the election winner, Donald Trump.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who previously called the notion that fake news on Facebook influenced the election a “pretty crazy idea,” released a video last week outlining “the steps [Facebook is] taking to protect election integrity.” In this piece, we’ll lay out we know so far, what Facebook has promised to do in the future to ensure the integrity of elections around the world, and what questions we still don’t have the answers to. As technology becomes more sophisticated at targeting the preferences of consumers, this issue will continue to be a challenge.
On September 6, Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos revealed the company’s findings: 470 Pages and accounts that purchased $100,000-worth of ads were “affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.”
Stamos also noted that another $50,000-worth of ads were purchased by “accounts with US IP addresses but with the language set to Russian,” which “didn’t necessarily violate any policy or law” but raised red flags in hindsight.
The New York Times recently detailed how some fake accounts came to be, and the information – or, misinformation – they spread. One profiled account was for a Melvin Redick, ”of Harrisburg, Pa, a friendly-looking American with a backward baseball cap and a young daughter,” someone it seems doesn’t exist. This account, as with others like it, were used to spread divisive messages and start trending topics through promoted advertisements.
At the time, in 2016, Facebook used a self-service advertising interface that lets users promote posts without any employee oversight. Only major ad campaigns from companies receive human attention. “Individual” users working en masse avoid this problem. Only after the election, Schrange claims, did Facebook notice some auto-approved ads due to the large number and scope involved might be “problematic.” If you have questions about Intellectual Property Law or Internet issues, call an attorney, like an intellectual property lawyer Naperville, IL trusts, today.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Law Offices of Konrad Sherinian for their insight into intellectual property and the Facebook/Russia scandal.