Just five months ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the claim that fake news on Facebook had influenced the U.S. election was " a pretty crazy idea". Now, he's singing a different tune. Facebook is now saying that its data "does not contradict" the Director of National Intelligence's conclusion that Russia was involved in efforts to interfere with the U.S. election.
The hugely popular social media platform made such admission in a report by its security team where they gave a detailed account how foreign governments are supposedly using Facebook to attempt to manipulate public opinion in other countries. Facebook, aside from the sudden turnaround in its claim, is also taking a step further. It is taking new measures to fight what it calls "information operators" that it is now claiming were used during both the U.S. and French presidential election campaigns.
Facebook is now saying that nations and organizations are using its platform to spread misleading information and falsehoods for political purposes. It also said that such attempts to spread misinformation are well-funded and are "subtle" in their approach. It went further to say that they are now looking at the U.S. election as a "case study", and even outlines several situations that fit the pattern of "information operations" by "malicious actors."
Facebook's new statement does not directly mentions Russia, but claiming that their data do not contradict the attribution provided by the January 6 report of U.S. Director of National Intelligence is very telling. The said report concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election and that he "aspired to help" Donald Trump win. Despite the conclusion, however, the said report did not provide proof of such claims.
Facebook's security report is further claiming that during the election campaign, fake profiles were set up to spread stolen emails and other documents. It said that social media accounts were then created to strengthen the information and ensure that it reached as many people as possible. The social media platform said that among the techniques used to achieve their purpose include repeated posting of the same material, coordinated "likes" to boost the prominence of key postings and groups hiding their intent for propaganda by also posting legitimate news and information.
Facebook said its security team would respond to the problem by suspending or deleting false accounts which would be identified through a combination of " machine learning and intelligence agency-level analysis." Facebook suspended 30,000 accounts in France before the voting for the first round of the presidential election took place last Sunday in an effort to prevent the problem.
A big revelation in the report, however, included an interesting, and perhaps telling, line that said:" the reach of known operations during the U.S. election of 2016 was statistically very small compared to overall engagement on political issues."