Facebook Exec Says It Helped Put Trump In White House

Facebook’s hardware vice president Andrew Bosworth gestures as he speaks during an AFP interview on September 17, 2019 in San Francisco, California.

 

 

A senior Facebook executive on Tuesday said the world’s biggest social network unintentionally helped put Donald Trump in the White House but warned against dramatic rule changes.

The Trump campaign did effectively use Facebook to rally support for his presidential run, and the social network should be mindful of that without making moves that stifle free political discourse, Andrew Bosworth said in a lengthy post on his personal Facebook page triggered by The New York Times publishing an internal memo he wrote.

“So was Facebook responsible for Donald Trump getting elected?” Bosworth asked.

“I think the answer is yes, but not for the reasons anyone thinks.”

Bosworth contended Trump was not elected because of Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica, but rather because he ran “the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser.”

Since Facebook has the same ad policies in place now, the outcome of the 2020 election could be the same as it was four years ago, he added.

Facebook has maintained a hands-off policy on political ads, in contrast with Google which in November placed restrictions on how advertisers can target specific groups of voters.

“As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear,” Bosworth wrote.

That doesn’t mean Facebook should not draw a line when it comes to how it is used, he reasoned. Clearly inciting violence, thwarting voting, and other blatant transgressions should be banned, but voters should be trusted to decide what kind of leaders they want to elect, according to Bosworth.

“If we don’t want hate-mongering politicians then we must not elect them,” Bosworth wrote.

“If we change the outcomes without winning the minds of the people who will be ruled then we have a democracy in name only. If we limit what information people have access to and what they can say then we have no democracy at all.”

– War rooms –
Bosworth’s comments came with Facebook under pressure to better protect user data and prevent its services from being used to spread misinformation, exacerbate social divides and sway political opinions as was the case in 2016 in the US.

Keeping the social network secure while thwarting misinformation and fending off the competition with new features were among priorities laid out by executives at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Tuesday.

“The innovation piece is important to us while we keep people in the company focused on security,” said Facebook vice president of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson.

Facebook provided visitors a look at a revamped “Privacy Checkup” tool for users which is rolling out this week.

“What is top of mind for me is regulation and how the privacy landscape is developing,” Everson said.

“We would like help on the regulatory front for privacy and security.”

Facebook priorities this year include preventing the platform from being used by malevolent actors to influence the US election, according to Everson.

The social network is in nearly 200 countries around the world, where scores of elections take place annually and will apply lessons learned through experience to the US, Everson said.

Facebook will once again have a “war room” to coordinate responses to the election or voter manipulation efforts by state actors or others in real-time.

“The war room model has been working around the world,” Everson said.

“We have 70 to 90 elections each year, so we have been getting better. War rooms are part of our strategy.”

Facebook will ban hyper-realistic deepfake videos ahead of the US election but will still allow heavily edited clips so long as they are parody or satire.

Everson re-affirmed Facebook will stick with its controversial policy of allowing politicians to post information proven to be false.

“We do not believe we are in the position to be the arbiter of truth, but we have been clear that we are continuing to evaluate how we can do it better,” Everson said.

“We don’t want people to mislead on our platform.”

Facebook last month took down a network of accounts it said was using fake identities while spreading pro-Trump messages at the social network and its Instagram service.

Trump Says Zuckerberg Told Him He’s Facebook’s ‘Number One’

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 11, 2019 US President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives for a “Keep America Great” rally at Sudduth Coliseum at the Lake Charles Civic Center in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

President Donald Trump boasted Monday that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told him at dinner he is “number one” on the global social media platform.

“I had dinner with Mark Zuckerberg the other day and he said ‘I’d like to congratulate you… you are number one on Facebook,'” Trump said.

The president, speaking in a live interview with right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, did not specify when the dinner happened.

A spokesman for Facebook said the last such dinner took place in October.

The president noted the importance of social media to his messaging, which depends on bypassing much of the professional news media, which he accuses of bias against him.

READ ALSO: Indonesian Jailed For Life As UK’s ‘Most Prolific’ Rapist

Trump, who has nearly 70 million followers on Twitter, told Limbaugh that without the platform, “I think we’d be lost.”

“We wouldn’t be able to get the truth out,” he said.

US social media platforms have come under criticism for enabling misinformation and fake news in the build-up to the 2020 presidential election.

Trump himself has repeatedly used Facebook and Twitter to push untrue statements and conspiracy theories.

Both those platforms have responded by saying they will not attempt to weed out lies from politicians because their statements fall under the category of “newsworthy” content.

Trump is number one on Facebook in terms of political ad spending, leading to accusations that the company is unduly influenced by the Republican.

At the October dinner at the White House, Trump and Zuckerberg were reportedly joined by Facebook board member Peter Thiel.

After, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren called for transparency over Facebook’s links to Trump.

“What did they talk about?” Warren tweeted.

AFP

Benin Jails Journalist Over Facebook Post

South African Pastor Sentenced Over Gay Slurs
File Photo

 

Benin Republic sentenced an investigative journalist to 18 months in prison on Tuesday for comments he posted on social media, his lawyer told AFP.

Ignace Sossou quoted on his Facebook and Twitter pages comments made by Benin’s public prosecutor Mario Metonou at a media event to discuss fake news on December 17.

The comments made by the official appeared to criticise the government’s attitude towards freedom of expression.

“The internet outage on (legislative) polling day on April 28 is an admission of weakness on the part of those in power,” the prosecutor reportedly said.

Sossou “has been convicted of harassment through electronic communications”, his lawyer, Prisca Ogoubi told AFP.

The former French colony has typically been seen as among West Africa’s most stable democracies. But Benin has been facing a political crisis since controversial parliamentary elections in April sparked mass protests.

President Patrice Talon, a former business magnate who came to power in 2016, has been accused of becoming increasingly authoritarian and has carried out a concerted crackdown on his opponents that has driven key rivals into exile.

Last week, Benin’s media regulatory authority suspended the radio station of Sebastien Ajavon, a Beninese businessman and opponent in exile.

Sossou works for the online news website Benin web TV and collaborates with several news organisations such as the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the 3i Network.

He had already been sentenced to a suspended prison sentence on a separate charge of “publishing fake news” after he reported on offshore accounts and front companies targeting Beninese and French businessmen.

In a statement on Tuesday, the 3i Network called for Sossou’s immediate release, stating that his conviction was “completely contrary to the… spirit of respect for press freedom”.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Benin 96th in its press freedom index this year.

AFP

Facebook Worker Payroll Data Stolen From Car

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
This file photo taken on February 18, 2019 shows the US social media Facebook logo displayed on a tablet in Paris. French Senate approved in the night between May 21 and May 22, 2019 a new tax on digital giants (“Gafa”), such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, carried through Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.
Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Facebook on Friday alerted employees that hard drives rich with information about those on the social network’s payroll were stolen from a car last month.

“We have seen no evidence of abuse and believe this was a smash and grab crime rather than an attempt to steal employee information,” Facebook said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“This theft impacts current and former Facebook employees only and no Facebook user data was involved.”

The drives contained names, bank account numbers and other personal data of some 29,000 people who were on Facebook’s payroll in the US last year, according to the California-based internet titan, which confirmed a Bloomberg report.

The car was being used by a member of the payroll department, and the hard drives were not supposed to have left the Facebook campus. The data storage hardware was in a bag the worker left in the car, according to a spokesperson for the company.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have notified the current and former employees whose information we believe was stored on the equipment and are offering them free identity theft and credit monitoring services,” Facebook said, adding that it was working with police investigating the theft.

Disciplinary action was said to be taken in the matter, but details were not shared.

Word of the theft came as Facebook faces continued pressure to earn trust when it comes to how well it safeguards user data.

EU To Check How Facebook, Google Use Data

The European Commission said Monday it had begun a “preliminary investigation” into how Facebook and Google collect personal data and what they do with it.

“The Commission has sent out questionnaires as part of a preliminary investigation into Google’s and Facebook’s data practices,” a Commission spokeswoman told AFP.

“These investigations concern the way data is gathered, processed, used and monetised including for advertising purposes,” she added.

The Commission did not say who exactly the questionnaires were sent to. It is a step that could lead to a formal investigation.

Facebook vice president Nick Clegg was asked about the probe during a press conference in Brussels but did not answer directly.

Facebook faces investigations worldwide, he said.

Clegg nonetheless warned EU regulators not to let themselves get misled by faulty reasoning when it comes to data.

“This phrase you often hear that data is oil is deeply unhelpful because data is nothing like oil,” Clegg said.

“It’s not something that you suck out of the ground and burn in a vehicle engine and that’s it. Data is infinitely divisible and infinitely sharable,” he added.

“Data is something that you can both share and keep at the same time,” Clegg noted.

“For a data intensive companies like FB we would urge regulators and legislators not to be trapped by analog parallels which don’t apply to the digital world,” he said.

A Google spokesman said in an e-mail to AFP: “We use data to make our services more useful and to show relevant advertising, and we give people the controls to manage, delete or transfer their data.

“We will continue to engage with the Commission and others on this important discussion for our industry.”

In September 2016, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager warned that she would keep a close eye on companies that collect and use data such as Facebook, WhatsApp or Google.

Since she began working at the commission in November 2014, Vestager has hit Google with three major fines for abusing its dominant market position in different sectors.

Vestager has been promoted to vice president in the new European Commission and still holds the competition portfolio in addition to a new one on regulation of the digital sector.

Meanwhile on Monday, Facebook announced a new tool for Irish users to easily transfer photos and video footage towards Google Photos, which is owned by its competitor.

Facebook said it would extend the service at some point to other countries and internet platforms.

AFP

Instagram, Facebook Experience Shutdown

 

This handout image obtained November 4, 2019 courtesy of Facebook, shows the new company logo for Facebook. Eric BARADAT / FACEBOOK / AFP

 

Users of popular social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram, reported on Thursday the services were down.

Some users said they could not make new posts on either platform.

It is yet unclear what went wrong but Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, tweeted on Thursday that it was aware of the problem.

“We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing Facebook’s family of apps, including Instagram,” the tweet from Instagram said. “We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”

This is not the first time users have experienced disruptions of Facebook’s services. In March 2019, Facebook went down for more than 14 hours. Instagram was also affected at the time.

Facebook Buys Maker Of Hit Virtual Reality Game ‘Beat Saber’

In this file photo taken on October 23, 2019 Facebook employee Elza Uzmanoff tries out an Oculus device at the company’s corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. Facebook-owned Oculus on November 26, 2019, said it is buying the studio behind hit virtual reality game “Beat Saber” as it looks to expand VR technology to wider audiences. PHOTO: Josh Edelson / AFP

 

Facebook-owned Oculus on Tuesday said it is buying the studio behind hit virtual reality game “Beat Saber” as it looks to expand VR technology to wider audiences.

Oculus, which makes Rift and Quest VR headgear, did not disclose financial terms of the deal to acquire Prague-based Beat Games.

“Beat Games is joining us in our quest to bring VR to more people around the world,” Oculus director of augmented and virtual reality content Mike Verdu said in a blog post.

“Beat Games’ accomplishments are already impressive, but Facebook and the Beat Games team know that there is so much more that can be done across VR, games, and music.”

Verdu assured players that the studio would continue to ship content and updates for “Beat Saber” on platforms where it is already available.

In the virtual game, players use light sabers to slash oncoming, large cubes to the beat of music, sometimes twisting or ducking to avoid oncoming walls.

“VR reimagines old genres and invents new ones,” Verdu said.

Oculus is exploring ways, including acquisitions, to accelerate the adoption of virtual reality technology, which Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has heralded as the next major computing platform.

“With the resources and know-how that we can offer, Beat Games will be able to accelerate, adding more music and more exciting features to ‘Beat Saber’ as well as bringing the game to more people,” Verdu said.

Facebook is planning a virtual social community where users of its Oculus headgear can “explore new places” via its Horizon virtual world, which is set for a beta launch in 2020.

Oculus users will be able to choose an avatar and interact with others in the virtual community, Facebook said earlier this year.

Horizon will replace earlier versions of the social VR community Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms.

Oculus remains a small part of Facebook, whose core social network and other platforms reach more than two billion people worldwide.

Analysts expect sales of 1.3 million units in 2019 of the Oculu

Facebook Takes Down Billions Of Fake Accounts

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
This file photo taken on February 18, 2019 shows the US social media Facebook logo displayed on a tablet in Paris. French Senate approved in the night between May 21 and May 22, 2019 a new tax on digital giants (“Gafa”), such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, carried through Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. PHOTO: Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Facebook on Wednesday said it has taken down some 5.4 billion fake accounts this year in a sign of the persistent battle on social media against manipulation and misinformation.

Amid growing efforts to create fraudulent accounts, Facebook said it has stepped up its defenses and often removes the accounts within minutes of their being created.

“We have improved our ability to detect and block attempts to create fake, abusive accounts,” the internet firm said in its latest transparency report.

“We can estimate that every day, we prevent millions of attempts to create fake accounts using these detection systems.”

Facebook believes that fake accounts — where someone pretends to be a person or entity which does not exist — represented about five percent of its worldwide active users during the second and third quarters of this year.

The social network has invested heavily in finding and taking down accounts crafted to deceive people about where information is originating, particular when spread as part of coordinated campaigns with political or social agendas.

The detailed report also showed that government demands for user information hit a new high, led by the US.

Overall requests by governments for Facebook user data rose 16 percent to 128,617 in the first half of this year.

“Of the total volume, the US continues to submit the largest number of requests, followed by India, the UK, Germany and France,” the report stated.

Facebook received 50,741 requests from the US for information regarding 82,461 accounts, with roughly two-thirds of those done in a way prohibiting the social network from letting users know about inquiries, the report showed.

“We always scrutinize every government request we receive for account data to make sure it is legally valid,” Facebook deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby said in an online post about the latest figures.

“This is true no matter which government makes the request.”

Curbing the disturbing

In a detailed transparency report that, for the first time, included photo and video-oriented social network Instagram, Facebook also highlighted progress tackling terror, hate, suicide, child porn, and drug related posts.

“While we are pleased with this progress, these technologies are not perfect and we know that mistakes can still happen,” Facebook said.

“That’s why we continue to invest in systems that enable us to improve our accuracy in removing content that violates our policies while safeguarding content that discusses or condemns hate speech.”

Facebook reported that it removed about 11.6 million pieces of content that broke is rules banning child nudity or sexual exploitation of children from the main social network, compared with half that amount in the first three months of this year..

Some 754,000 pieces of such banned content were removed from Instagram in the recently ended quarter, up from 512,000 in the prior three-month period, according to Facebook.

Millions of pieces of content related to drug sales were also removed from Facebook and Instagram in the recently ended quarter, the report indicted.

In a conference call discussing the report, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and other executives stressed how combining company resources allowed it to better tackle unwanted content and activity at both Instagram and the leading social network.

Zuckerberg has responded to political rhetoric calling for the breakup of Facebook, in part, by arguing that such a move would actually make it harder to fight problems such as malicious content or activities.

“This is something we invest billions of dollars into every year,” Zuckerberg said of the battle to keep Facebook safe and secure for users.

“That certainly weighs on profits, but there is no question it is the right thing to do.”

Zuckerberg renewed his call for regulation that called for all internet firms to openly disclose details about the efficiency of efforts to stop the spread of harmful content on their platforms.

“If we can’t understand the true prevalence of harmful content across systems, we can’t stop it,” Zuckerberg said.

AFP

Facebook Unveils New Logo As Its ‘Family’ Grows

This handout image obtained November 4, 2019 courtesy of Facebook, shows the new company logo for Facebook. Eric BARADAT / FACEBOOK / AFP

 

 

Facebook on Monday unveiled a new logo to represent the Silicon Valley company, distinct from its core social network.

The move aims to highlight the Facebook “brand” which operates a range of apps and services including messaging, photo-sharing, virtual reality and is developing wallets for digital currency.

The new branding, basically the company name in crisp lettering, will be stamped on its “family” of offerings including WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, Oculus, Workplace, Portal and Calibra, according to chief marketing officer Antonio Lucio.

“Today, we’re updating our company branding to be clearer about the products that come from Facebook,” Lucio said.

“We’re introducing a new company logo and further distinguishing the Facebook company from the Facebook app, which will keep its own branding.”

The new corporate logo “is a way to better communicate our ownership structure to the people and businesses who use our services to connect,” Lucio added.

The move comes with Facebook under intense scrutiny from regulators around the world over how it polices content on its platforms, and with some politicians and activists seeking a breakup of Silicon Valley giants.

Since its start as a social networking application 15 years ago, Facebook has acquired Oculus virtual reality gear company as well as Instagram image-based social network. It has also launched Portal smart screens as well as a Workplace social network tailored for workplace productivity.

Its messaging applications WhatsApp and Messenger are each used by more than a billion people.

Facebook established a Calibra as a digital wallet for use with the proposed cryptocurrency Libra, which has been facing criticism from regulators and lawmakers in various countries.

AFP

Africa Targeted By Russian-Led Disinformation Campaign – Facebook

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
This file photo taken on February 18, 2019 shows the US social media Facebook logo displayed on a tablet in Paris. 
Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Facebook said Wednesday it had taken down accounts linked to a Russian ally of President Vladimir Putin seeking to spread disinformation on the social network in eight African countries.

The influence operations hiding behind fake identities were traced back to Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been indicted in the United States in connection with a campaign targeting the 2016 US elections.

“Each of these operations created networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” Facebook cybersecurity chief Nathaniel Gleicher said in a statement.

“We have shared information about our findings with law enforcement, policymakers and industry partners.”

The accounts originated in Russia and targeted Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya, according to Facebook.

The update suggests an expanding effort by Russia and is the latest move by the social media giant to halt foreign influence efforts in the United States and other parts of the world.

“We’re constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people,” Gleicher said.

“In each of these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”

Links to Mercenary Group

Stanford University researchers who worked in parallel with Facebook on the investigation said at least some of the purged accounts came from Russia’s Wagner Group, a shadowy private army which is believed to have been active in conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, and sent mercenaries to the Central African Republic and Sudan.

Considered a secretive Russian oligarch, Prigozhin is believed to be behind the Internet Research Agency, which has been linked to US election interference, as well as the Wagner Group.

Prigozhin, who has denied any ties to the Wagner Group, gained prominence for operating high-end restaurants in Russia in the 1990s, earning him the moniker “Putin’s chef.”

A statement from Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center said the operations appear to be “at least in part at the behest of a state actor” but also relied on subcontractors who are native speakers or people within the region, making it harder to detect.

“In addition to well-known social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, the actors leveraged public WhatsApp and Telegram groups,” the Stanford team said.

“The operation used social media engagement tactics designed to develop a close relationship with the audience, including Facebook Live videos, Google Forms for feedback, and a contest.”

The Stanford group said the African operations followed the playbook of the Internet Research Agency.

“The operatives created several associated news sites (in one case staffed by reporters who appear to have spent time in Russia) as well as Facebook Pages that produced social-first content (memes, live videos),” according to the researchers.

Facebook described three separate operations targeting both its core social network and Instagram.

One operation included 35 accounts and 53 pages that focused on Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.

Russian Strategy

The effort attracted some 475,000 followers and spent $77,000 for ads posting on global and local political news including Russian policies in Africa and criticism of French and US policies.

A separate operation targeting Sudan included 20 different accounts and 18 pages, some posing as news organizations.

The third network, focused on Libya, involved 15 accounts and 12 pages posting about local news and geopolitical issues.

The Stanford researchers said the operation appears to be part of “Russia’s global strategy for reasserting itself as a geopolitical superpower” and follows the deployment of paramilitary groups in Libya and the Central African Republic.

Putin last year surprised the West with a string of high-profile moves that strengthened Russia’s influence in the CAR, an extremely poor but strategically important country that has traditionally had close ties to France, the former colonial power.

Russia sent military trainers to the CAR’s beleaguered armed forces, a senior aide to advise the president and mercenaries to provide his security, and offered to mediate between the government and the country’s many rebel groups.

Facebook Profit Climbs Along With User Base

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
This file photo taken on February 18, 2019 shows the US social media Facebook logo displayed on a tablet in Paris. French Senate approved in the night between May 21 and May 22, 2019 a new tax on digital giants (“Gafa”), such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, carried through Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.
Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Facebook on Wednesday reported that its quarterly profit grew along with its user base as it grapples with concerns ranging from political ads to cryptocurrency.

The leading social network said its profit topped $6 billion on revenue that climbed 28 percent to $17.4 billion in the quarter that ended on September 30.

Meanwhile, the number of active monthly users increased eight percent from a year ago to 2.45 billion.

“We had a good quarter and our community and business continue to grow,” said Facebook chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

“We are focused on making progress on major social issues and building new experiences that improve people’s lives around the world.”

Facebook shares rose more than a percent in after-market trades that followed release of the earnings figures, which beat Wall Street expectations.

“I’m not surprised by Facebook’s strong performance last quarter. Advertisers continue to support Facebook, despite the many controversies swirling around the company, and the user base also continues to expand around the world,” said eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson.

“Yes, Facebook has a lot of challenges it must deal with, but increasing its revenue and user count isn’t one of them.”

The California-based company said that costs rose 32 percent in the quarter, which ended with a headcount of 43,030 employees, an increase of 28 percent from the same quarter last year.

Facebook has been beefing up teams devoted to privacy and security to protect people’s data and thwart the kind of voter manipulation campaigns seen during the US election three years ago.

The earnings release came just hours after Facebook announced it took down accounts linked to a Russian ally of President Vladimir Putin seeking to spread disinformation in eight African countries.

The influence operations hiding behind fake identities were traced back to Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been indicted in the United States in connection with a campaign targeting the 2016 US elections.

“Each of these operations created networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” Facebook cybersecurity chief Nathaniel Gleicher said in a statement.

“We’re constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people.”

Hands-off Approach

The accounts originated in Russia and targeted Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya, according to Facebook.

Facebook came under fresh criticism this week for its hands-off approach to political speech, as a group of employees and US lawmakers called on the social network to fact-check politicians spreading misinformation.

A letter from employees urged the company to crack down on “civic misinformation,” saying the spread of debunked claims is a “threat to what FB stands for.”

At the same time, US lawmakers critical of Facebook stepped up their calls for it to revisit its policy, which exempts comments and paid ads on the platform from fact-checking — an issue that has become heated with President Donald Trump’s online ads using what some called “provably false” claims.

“Being a politician shouldn’t be a license to lie — especially to spread hatred. If Facebook employees get it so should Zuckerberg,” tweeted Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Facebook said in response to an AFP query about the controversy that the social media giant remained “committed to not censoring political speech, and we will continue exploring additional steps we can take to bring increased transparency to political ads.”

Meanwhile, Twitter on Wednesday announced it would stop running political ads altogether.

Zuckerberg recently faced a torrent of criticism on Capitol Hill over the Libra cryptocurrency Facebook is seeking to roll out next year.

“We clearly have not locked down exactly how this is going to work yet,” Zuckerberg told members of the House Financial Service Committee.

“The goal of Libra is to build a global payment system rather than a currency.”

He acknowledged that Libra could be limited to digital payment systems using individual currencies — a less ambitious plan than creating a new coin linked to a basket of major currencies.

Libra is backed by an alliance of companies in a nonprofit, Swiss-based association, but some lawmakers are skeptical about the project, and want Facebook instead to focus on data privacy.

Lawmakers did not hold back in their harsh criticism of Facebook’s data practices and doubts about Libra in particular.

Facebook Takes More Heat For Enabling Political Falsehoods

 

Facebook came under fresh criticism Tuesday for its hands-off approach to political speech, as a group of employees and US lawmakers called on the social network to apply fact-checking for politicians spreading misinformation.

A letter from Facebook employees urged the company to crack down on “civic misinformation,” saying the spread of debunked claims is a “threat” to what the company stands for.

“We strongly object to this policy as it stands. It doesn’t protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy,” said the letter first obtained by the New York Times, which said some 250 employees had endorsed it.

At the same time, US lawmakers critical of Facebook stepped up their calls to revisit its policy, which exempts comments and paid ads on the platform from fact-checking — an issue that has become heated with President Donald Trump’s online ads using what some called “provably false” claims.

“Facebook’s new ads policy allows politicians to run demonstrably false advertising on its platform. I don’t think that’s right,” said Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who added that he sent a letter to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg calling on him “to reverse this decision.”

Other Democrats joined the effort, welcoming the letter from Facebook employees.

“Being a politician shouldn’t be a license to lie — especially to spread hatred. If Facebook employees get it so should Zuckerberg,” tweeted Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Those comments were echoed by Senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, who tweeted: “Facebook’s own employees know just how dangerous their policy allowing politicians to lie in political ads will be for our democracy. Mark Zuckerberg should listen to them — and I applaud their brave efforts to hold their own company accountable.”

Facebook did not respond to an AFP query, but Zuckerberg earlier this month articulated Facebook’s policy, saying it’s not the job of tech firms to “censor” politicians.

Zuckerberg said the policy is based on a long tradition of allowing free expression.

“I don’t think most people want to live in a world where you can only post things that tech companies judge to be 100 percent true,” he said.

The policy on Facebook, and a similar approach from other platforms such as Twitter, creates a challenge for online firms seeking to avoid the role of being an “arbiter” of truth and entering the fray of politics.

AFP