Facebook enters war against “information operations,” acknowledges election hijinxEnlarge / Facebook Security gave details last week on how the company is fighting nation-state and other groups’ efforts to use the social network to amplify false news and covert propaganda efforts. (credit: Getty Images/ NurPhoto)
Facebook Security has revealed more of how the company has begun to combat the spread of propaganda and “fake news,” acknowledging for the first time that the company tracked a campaign that attempted to influence the 2016 US presidential campaign.

Facebook began to fight “fake news” posts (sort of) earlier this year when the company introduced a “disputed” label that is now being added to some shared stories of questionable provenance.

But the company has also launched a less-visible effort to tamp down on “false amplification” of propaganda efforts on its social media platform.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Facebook Security team members monitored a number of activities that “we assessed to fit the pattern of information operations,” according to a paper published by the company last week.

The paper, authored by Facebook Security’s Jen Weedon, William Nuland, and Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos—entitled “Information Operations and Facebook”—acknowledges that Facebook accounts were used as part of a coordinated effort to spread misinformation and influence the shape of political conversations.

Facebook did not attempt to attribute the campaign to a specific party.

While acknowledging that activity, the authors also downplayed its scope. “In short,” the Facebook team wrote, “while we acknowledge the ongoing challenge of monitoring and guarding against information operations, the reach of known operations during the US election of 2016 was statistically very small compared to overall engagement on political issues.” Nevertheless, Facebook reported the activity as part of a growing trend that the company now feels compelled to combat because of its potential poisoning effect on the more organic conversations on social media.
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