Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has expressed confidence his platform will be able to handle misinformation and attempts of “meddling” during the oncoming US presidential election, reports the BBC.
Appearing in his first broadcast interview in five years, Zuckerberg said that since the elections in 2016 he and his company “have learnt a lot about how politics works online”.
According to the Facebook co-founder, his platform has been joining forces with governments around the world, gearing up for the possible “onslaught of meddling” in the period leading up to the ballot.
“One big area that we were behind on in 2016 but I think now are quite advanced at is identifying and fighting these co-ordinated information campaigns that come from different state actors around the world.”
Zuckerberg touted his company’s efforts to utilize its global experience in becoming more adept at identifying these threats.
"Countries are going to continue to try and interfere and we are going to see issues like that but we have learnt a lot since 2016 and I feel pretty confident that we are going to be able to protect the integrity of the upcoming election,” said Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg insisted the company was prepared even better than some governments to ward off future possible attempts to sway political outcomes.
Earlier in the year, as the presidential race was heating up, Facebook faced criticism for refusing to introduce major changes to its advertising policies, that allowed disinformation to spread online, with both Democrats and Republicans slamming the website and urging it to take on greater responsibility for the content on its platform, and specifically, its micro-targeting options for politicians.
The CEO also explained how his company deals with coronavirus misinformation, such as claims that 5G infrastructure is allegedly aiding the spread of the virus, or false claims of cures.
“If some crazy person decided to start telling people to drink or inject bleach… what is the Facebook algorithm’s response to that?” quipped Zuckerberg, in a reference to President Donald Trump.
The medical community had lambasted Trump for suggesting research into whether COVID-19 might be treated by injecting disinfectant.
Zuckerberg said that in instances of “harmful misinformation that puts people at imminent risk of physical harm”, the platform would remove the content, no matter how influential the user might be.
“If you’re saying something that’s going to put people at imminent risk of harm, we take it down. If you’re saying something that is just wrong, we don’t take that down, but we stop it from spreading, generally. That’s a much more sensitive topic,” said Zuckerberg.
Netizens were swift to respond to the Facebook CEO’s announcement, with many unconvinced and dubious.
Pay your taxes first and talk about integrity, dude. How about protecting integrity of 2016 and previous elections and that of other country's elections, Facebook! Believing in Facebook is believing in China after coronavirus.— Stalwart (@yialcy) May 21, 2020
Facebook ads should be suspended for 3 months before the election, like most other social media platforms. Perhaps Zuck won't do this because his platform is no longer a social media platform, it's a political manipulation system attracting billions in sponsorship and patronage?— Richard Jones (@Richard20984682) May 21, 2020
Does it really say 'protect integrity'?— Frank (@FM01D) May 21, 2020
Translation: Facebook staff have tweaked AI so that it is better at censoring anything that conflicts with its agenda than ever seen before!— StevieTheWevie (@StevieIsOP) May 21, 2020
Facebook was the main platform Trump & Duterte made aggressive promotion & won them the election. I don’t think “pretty confident” is a term they could ever use, no one is confident w Facebook’s integrity. We still have problems w propaganda accounts back in Manila Philippines.— baste_bris (@bastemabini) May 21, 2020
Why is anyone still using Faceberg??? pic.twitter.com/0ylipF5sqK— Coyote James (@zen_coyote) May 21, 2020