Facebook says it can’t guarantee social media is good

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Facebook warned today that it could offer no assurance that social media was on balance good for democracy.

It also expressed regrets about the 2016 US elections, when according to the company Russian agents created 80,000 posts that reached around 126 million people over two years.

But Facebook said it was trying what it could to stop alleged meddling in elections by Russia or anyone else.

The acknolwdgement takes the company one step further from CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments in 2016 that it was ‘crazy’ to say Facebook influenced the US election.

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Facebook says ads that ran on the company's social media platform and have been linked to a Russian internet agency were seen by an estimated 10 million people before and after the 2016 US presidential election

Facebook says ads that ran on the company’s social media platform and have been linked to a Russian internet agency were seen by an estimated 10 million people before and after the 2016 US presidential election

The sharing of false or misleading headlines on social media has become a global issue, after accusations that Russia tried to influence votes in the United States, Britain and France. 

Moscow denies the allegations.

Facebook, the largest social network with more than 2 billion users, addressed social media’s role in democracy in blog posts from a Harvard University professor, Cass Sunstein, and from an employee working on the subject.

‘I wish I could guarantee that the positives are destined to outweigh the negatives, but I can’t,’ Samidh Chakrabarti, a Facebook product manager, wrote in his post.

Facebook, he added, has a ‘moral duty to understand how these technologies are being used and what can be done to make communities like Facebook as representative, civil and trustworthy as possible.’

Contrite Facebook executives were already fanning out across Europe this week to address the company’s slow response to abuses on its platform, such as hate speech and foreign influence campaigns.

US lawmakers have held hearings on the role of social media in elections, and this month Facebook widened an investigation into the run-up to Britain’s 2016 referendum on EU membership.

Chakrabarti expressed Facebook’s regrets about the 2016 US elections, when according to the company Russian agents created 80,000 posts that reached around 126 million people over two years.

TEN MILLION AMERICANS SAW RUSSIA’S DIVISIVE ADS DURING THE 2016 US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 

Facebook says ads that ran on the company’s social media platform and have been linked to a Russian internet agency were seen by an estimated 10 million people before and after the 2016 US presidential election.

The company turned 3,000 ads over to three congressional committees in October 2017 as part of their investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 election.

In a company blog post, Facebook’s Elliot Schrage said the ads appeared to focus on divisive social and political messages, including LGBT issues, immigration and gun rights. 

In many cases, the ads encouraged people to follow pages on those issues.

Facebook said last month that the ads appear to have come from accounts associated with a Russian entity called the Internet Research Agency.

Fewer than half of the ads – which ran between 2015 and 2017 – were seen before the election, with 56 percent of them seen after the election. 

The company should have done better, he wrote, and he said Facebook was making up for lost time by disabling suspect accounts, making election ads visible beyond the targeted audience and requiring those running election ads to confirm their identities.

Twitter and Alphabet’s Google and YouTube have announced similar attempts at self-regulation.

Chakrabarti said Facebook had helped democracy in ways, such as getting more Americans to register to vote.

Sunstein, a law professor and Facebook consultant who also worked in the administration of former US President Barack Obama, said in a blog post that social media was a work in progress and that companies would need to experiment with changes to improve.

Another test of social media’s role in elections lies ahead in March, when Italy votes in a national election already marked by claims of fake news spreading on Facebook.

Facebook has a 'moral duty to understand how these technologies are being used and what can be done to make communities like Facebook as representative, civil and trustworthy as possible,' Samidh Chakrabarti, a Facebook product manager, wrote in a post

Facebook has a 'moral duty to understand how these technologies are being used and what can be done to make communities like Facebook as representative, civil and trustworthy as possible,' Samidh Chakrabarti, a Facebook product manager, wrote in a post

Facebook has a ‘moral duty to understand how these technologies are being used and what can be done to make communities like Facebook as representative, civil and trustworthy as possible,’ Samidh Chakrabarti, a Facebook product manager, wrote in a post





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