Facebook cuts some of its misinformation protections as US midterm elections approach

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facebook owner Meta is part of a safeguard designed to thwart voter misinformation and foreign interference in U.S. elections as the November midterm elections approach. is quietly shrinking.

This is a sharp departure from a multibillion-dollar effort to improve the accuracy of US election posts and regain trust among lawmakers and the public. After their outrage over the company misusing people’s data and allowing falsehoods to subvert its site, the 2016 campaign.

This pivot explores Meta’s priorities and how the world’s most popular social media platform can be exploited to spread misleading claims, create fake accounts, and incite partisan extremists. I am sounding the alarm about

“They aren’t talking about it,” said Katie Harbus, former Facebook policy director and now CEO of technology and policy firm AnchorChange. Worst case scenario: they pull out and we don’t know how that will show up in the platform’s midterm elections.”

Since last year, Meta has suspended an investigation into how falsehood is amplified in Facebook’s political ads and has indefinitely banned researchers from the site.

CrowdTangle, an online tool the company provided to hundreds of newsrooms and researchers, was used to help identify trending posts and misinformation on Facebook and Instagram. , has been out of service for a few days.

Public communications about the company’s response to election misinformation have apparently quieted down. Between 2018 and 2020, the company issued more than 30 statements to suppress misinformation about U.S. elections, prevent foreign adversaries from running ads and posts about voting, and create divisiveness. I specifically explained how to suppress hate speech.

Top executives hosted a Q&A session with reporters on the new policy. CEO Mark Zuckerberg writes Facebook post promising to remove false voting information and calls for more regulation to deal with foreign interference in US elections via social media I have created an opinion article.

But this year, Meta has released only a one-page document outlining its plans for the fall elections, despite the potential threat to the vote coming to light. Several Republican candidates are pushing false claims about US elections on social media. Additionally, Russia and China continue to deploy aggressive social media propaganda campaigns aimed at further political divisions among American audiences.

Elections remain a priority, Mehta said, and policies developed in recent years around election misinformation and foreign interference are now built into the company’s operations.

“With each election, we incorporated what we learned into new processes and established channels to share information with government and industry partners,” said Meta spokesman Tom Reynolds.

He declined to say how many full-time employees will be working on projects to protect the U.S. election this year.

During the 2018 election, the company provided tours, photos, and people counts in the election war room. However, The New York Times reported that the number of Meta employees working for this year’s election was cut from his 300 to 60, a figure Meta disputes.

According to Reynolds, Meta will attract hundreds of employees who work on the company’s other 40 teams, along with an unspecified number of employees, to monitor upcoming votes alongside election teams.

The company continues many initiatives it developed to limit election misinformation, including a fact-checking program launched in 2016 to investigate the veracity of popular lies circulating on Facebook and Instagram. I am enlisting the help of the media for this. Associated Press is part of Meta’s fact-checking program.

This month, Meta also rolled out new features for political advertising. This will allow the public to search for details on how advertisers target people based on their interests on Facebook and Instagram.

But Meta has suppressed other efforts to identify election misinformation on its site.

The company has stopped improving CrowdTangle, a website that serves newsrooms around the world and provides insight into trending social media posts. Journalists, fact-checkers and researchers have used this website to analyze Facebook content, including tracking popular misinformation and who is responsible for it.

Former CrowdTangle CEO Brandon Silverman, who left Meta last year, told the Senate Judiciary Committee this spring that the tool is now “dying.”

Silverman told the Associated Press that CrowdTangle is working on an upgrade to make the text of Internet memes more searchable. This often leads to spreading half-truths and evading fact-checker scrutiny.

“There’s really no shortage of ways to organize this data to make it useful to many different parts of fact-checking communities, newsrooms, and broader civil society,” said Silverman. .

Not everyone at Meta agreed with its transparent approach, Silverman said. The company said he hasn’t rolled out any new updates or features to CrowdTangle in over a year, and has experienced a multi-hour outage in recent months.

Meta also halted efforts to investigate how disinformation is transmitted through political advertising.

The company has indefinitely revoked Facebook access to two New York University researchers who allege they collected fraudulent data from the platform. The move comes hours after NYU Professor Laura Edelson said she shared with the company a plan to investigate the spread of disinformation on its platform regarding the Jan. 6, 2021 attacks on the US Capitol. rice field. It is currently under investigation by the House of Representatives.

“Upon closer inspection, we found that their system is probably dangerous for many users,” says Edelson.

Former and current Meta employees have privately said that exposing these dangers over the US election caused a social and political backlash against the company.

Republicans regularly accuse Facebook of unfairly censoring conservatives, and some have been fired for violating the company’s rules. Democrats, meanwhile, regularly complain that tech companies aren’t doing enough to curb disinformation.

“This is a very political issue that we try to avoid rather than jump into,” said former Facebook policy director Harbath. “They just see it as a huge pile of headaches.”

Meanwhile, the prospect of U.S. regulation no longer looms over the company, as lawmakers have yet to agree on what oversight the multi-billion dollar company should be subject to.

Freed from that threat, Meta’s leaders have spent the last few months devoting the company’s time, money, and resources to new projects.

Zuckerberg dived into Facebook’s massive rebrand and reorganization last October. Changed company name He plans to spend years and billions of dollars to evolve the social media platform into a nascent virtual reality construct called the Metaverse. It’s like the internet rendered in 3D.

Posts on his public Facebook page now focus on product announcements, tributes to artificial intelligence, and photos of him enjoying life. News about election preparations will be announced in a company blog post not written by him.

In one of Zuckerberg’s posts last October, Former Facebook employee leaked internal documents He defended the company by showing how the platform spreads hate and misinformation. rice field.

“I find it frustrating to see the good work we do being misrepresented, especially for those of you who make important contributions across safety, integrity, research and products. ‘ he wrote on October 5. If we continue to do the right thing and provide experiences that improve people’s lives, it will be better for our community and our business. ”

It was the last time he discussed his campaign for the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company in a public Facebook post.


Associate Press Technology Writer Barbara Ortutay contributed to this report.


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