Facebook appears to be taking steps to ensure the social media platform is not used as a tool to interfere in politics, ahead of the 2020 US presidential election. Facebook introduced a special security tool for elected officials and candidates. It will monitor their accounts for hacking attempts such as login attempts from unusual locations or unverified devices. Facebook said it will also label state-controlled media as such, label fact-checks more clearly and invest $2 million in media literacy projects.
Facebook also announced it has removed four networks of fake, state-backed misinformation-spreading accounts based in Russia and Iran. These networks sought to disrupt elections in the US, North Africa and Latin America, the company said. In the past year, Facebook said it has taken down 50 such clusters of accounts, a sign that efforts to use its services to disrupt elections are not letting up.
"Elections have changed significantly since 2016 and Facebook has too," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.
Facebook was caught off guard during the 2016 US presidential election, having let others use its platform to spread misinformation and meddle with the election process. Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers and regulators and privacy advocates around the world for problems ranging from election security to alleged anti-competitive behaviour and privacy violations The company is also under several antitrust investigations in the US.
As part of its efforts to crack down on misinformation, Facebook said it will add more prominent labels on debunked posts on Facebook as well as on Instagram. Facebook will put labels on top of what is deemed "false" and "partly false" photos and videos. However, Facebook will still continue to allow politicians to run ads containing misinformation on its platform.
Facebook hasn't said much about how it handles misinformation spread on its private messaging services such as WhatsApp and Messenger, beyond limiting how many times messages can be forwarded on WhatsApp. Critics argue the main problem is Facebook's business model, which depends on targeted advertisements and making sure that users stay engaged and entertained.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading Democratic presidential candidate and one of Facebook's biggest critics, has proposed breaking it up.
Facebook also said it will add more information about the people or groups who establish or manage Facebook pages. Facebook also said it has noticed groups and people "failing" to disclose the organizations behind pages, which can mislead users into thinking those pages are independent. Starting with large pages in the US, Facebook said it is adding a new section about "organizations that manage this page."
Facebook said it will require the page's creators to add this information in order to run ads. The rule applies to pages that have gone through the company's business verification process and to pages that run ads about social issues, elections or politics. If the page creators don't post this information, they won't be allowed to advertise.
(With AP inputs)