Facebook to counter bid by govts to influence discussions

The new effort expands Facebook's security efforts beyond "abusive" actions such as hacking and financial scams.
The new effort expands Facebook's security efforts beyond "abusive" actions such as hacking and financial scams.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON • Facebook says it is stepping up its security to counter efforts by governments and others to spread misinformation or manipulate discussions for political reasons.

The new effort expands Facebook's security efforts beyond "abusive" actions such as hacking and financial scams to "more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people," according to a White Paper released by the leading social network on Thursday.

The initiative is part of Facebook's efforts to counter "fake news" but goes beyond that to tackle efforts by governments and non-state entities to use the social network to manipulate public opinion.

With the new effort, Facebook will be using its security team to take aim at so-called "information operations" that aim "to distort domestic or foreign political sentiment", the document said.

Facebook said it will focus on three areas in this drive: "targeted data collection" by governments to locate and counter dissidents; "content creation" or fake news spread via the social network; and "false amplification", or using artificial means or automated "bots" to promote or denigrate a group or cause.

Facebook, which came under criticism for its role in the spread of misinformation in the 2016 US presidential campaign, has argued the platform did not play a major role in influencing voters.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'Facebook to counter bid by govts to influence discussions'. Print Edition | Subscribe