New Facebook steps to stop misinformation


Facebook announced new steps to combat misinformation and voter suppression ahead of the November 2020 US presidential election, on the same day it disclosed removal of a network of Russian accounts targeting US voters on Instagram.

Facebook would increase transparency through measures such as showing more information about the confirmed owner of a Facebook page and more prominently labelling content independent fact-checkers marked as false.

The social media giant came under fire in recent weeks over its policy of exempting ads run by politicians from fact-checking, drawing ire from Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the policy, saying social media introduced transformative avenues for speech that should not be shut down.

That same day, the Biden campaign called for the removal of an ad run by a super PAC, not a politician, it said contained false claims about the former vice president. Katie Harbath, Facebook’s head of global elections policy, said in response if the now inactive ad ran again, it would be sent to Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers.

On Monday, Facebook said it would be putting into effect its planned ban on paid ads telling people in the US not to vote. Zuckerberg told reporters the ban on voter misinformation would also apply to ads run by politicians.

The company will start labelling state-controlled media on its page and in the site’s ad library. In a blog post, Facebook said it planned to expand this labelling to specific posts on both Facebook and Instagram early next year.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the video-streaming service of Alphabet’s Google, recently came under scrutiny after showing ads from Chinese state-controlled media criticising Hong Kong protesters.

This month, the Senate committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election said the Kremlin’s best-known propaganda arm increased its social media activity after that vote.

“The bottom line is elections have changed significantly since 2016 and Facebook has changed too.” Zuckerberg said.

“We face increasingly sophisticated attacks from nation states like Russia, Iran and China, but I’m confident we’re more prepared.”

Facebook will introduce a new US presidential candidate spend tracker to show spend on political ads as part of the company’s efforts to make its ad library easier to use, Zuckerberg said.

Facebook launched an online library of political ads in 2018, but the database was criticised as being poorly maintained and failing to provide useful ad targeting information.

The company plans to heighten protection of the Facebook and Instagram accounts of candidates, elected officials and their teams through a programme called Facebook Protect. Participants will be required to turn on two-factor authentication and accounts will be monitored for signs of hacking.