Facebook Inc. (FB) co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to write a series of lengthy blog posts explaining how the social network is working to reduce the amount of divisive messages, propaganda and fake news engulfing its website.
On Wednesday, Zuckerberg published his first post in the series, a roughly 3,270 word insight into how Facebook is progressing towards its goal to protect its website from election interference. Here are five key takeaways from the post:
Humans and Machines Blocking Fake Accounts
Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook hired more than 10,000 extra people this year and has been building systems based on advancements in machine learning to block millions of fake accounts every day. While admitting that “these systems will never be perfect,” he added that Facebook’s automated technology and 20,000-plus workforce are beginning to have a positive impact.
He claimed that one billion fake accounts were removed within minutes of being created in in the six months between October and March, adding that the general public can keep tabs on these developments via the company’s Transparency Report.
Disrupting Economic Incentives
Facebook’s CEO said the best way to prevent politically-motivated misinformation and propaganda from going viral on its website is to prevent the culprits from making money from their posts. Rather than remove suspicious posts outright, Zuckerberg added that the company prefers to demote them, so that they “lose on average 80% of their future views.”
“We focus on reducing the distribution of viral misinformation rather than removing it outright,” he said. “If we make it harder for them to make money, then they'll typically just go and do something else instead. This is why we block anyone who has repeatedly spread misinformation from using our ads to make money. We also significantly reduce the distribution of any page that has repeatedly spread misinformation and spam. These measures make it harder for them to stay profitable spamming our community." (See also: Users Spend Less Time on Facebook: Research.)
Political Ad Buyer Scrutiny
In the run up to the 2016 presidential election, Russian operatives bought hundreds of Facebook ads to influence the American electorate. The social network responded to these damaging revelations by creating a searchable database of all political ads on its platform and imposing rules that require anyone purchasing political ads in the U.S. to verify their identity and location.
“This prevents someone in Russia, for example, from buying political ads in the United States, and it adds another obstacle for people trying to hide their identity or location using fake accounts,” added Zuckerberg.
Still Sharing Data With Academics
Facebook revealed that it continues to collaborate with academics, via an independent election research commission, even though the social network was previously duped by researchers at Cambridge Analytica. Zuckerberg said the commission plays a pivotal rule in monitoring Facebook’s role in elections and effectiveness in preventing abuse.
“There was considerable concern amongst Facebook employees about allowing researchers to access data,” he added. “Ultimately, I decided that the benefits of enabling this kind of academic research outweigh the risks. But we are dedicating significant resources to ensuring this research is conducted in a way that respects people's privacy and meets the highest ethical standards.”
Not Just up to Facebook to Fight Back
Zuckerberg said Facebook is doing everything it can to prevent misuse of its website, but also added that the best way to prevent political misinformation is if all companies and intelligence agencies work together.
“Our coordination with governments and industry in the US is significantly stronger now than it was in 2016,” he said. “We all have a greater appreciation of the threats, so everyone has an incentive to work together.” (See also: Gates Coached Zuckerberg on Dealing with Washington.)