WASHINGTON: Facebook will do everything it can to protect the integrity of this year’s elections in Pakistan, India and other countries, says Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of the world’s largest social media outlet.
In his testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr Zuckerberg noted that 2018 was an extremely important year for elections as several nations were going to polls this year.
“One of my top priorities in 2018 is to get this right [and] one of my greatest regrets in running the company is that we were slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016,” said the Facebook chief when Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, asked him when he learned that the Russians were trying to influence the presidential election in the United States.
“We expected them to do a number of more traditional cyber-attacks, which we did identify and notify the campaigns that they were trying to hack into them,” he said. “But we were slow at identifying the type of — of new information operations.”
Read: Facebook to only run verified political ads ahead of elections in Pakistan
He said that since 2016, Facebook had learned the methods used to influence public opinion and was better prepared to deal with them.
“2018 is an incredibly important year for elections. Not just with the US midterms, but around the world, there are important elections in India, in Brazil, in Mexico, in Pakistan and in Hungary,” he said. “We want to make sure that we do everything we can to protect the integrity of those elections.”
General elections in Pakistan are due in late July, as the PML-N government completes its tenure on May 31.
Mr Zuckerberg said he had more confidence now that Facebook would get it right, because since the 2016 election there had been several important elections around the world where it had a better record.
He said that his organisation did much better to deal with elections in France, Germany and the US Senate special election in Alabama last year.
Senator Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, asked Mr Zuckerberg if he wanted changes in the US law to prevent unfair influence on an electoral process. He said he did, once again referring to the need to ensure fairness in this year’s elections in India, Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan and Hungary.
“We’re going to take a number of measures, from building and deploying new artificial intelligence tools that take down fake news, to growing our security team to more than 20,000 people,” he said,
This would, he said, enable Facebook to “verify every advertiser who’s doing political and issue ads, to make sure that that kind of interference that the Russians were able to do in 2016 is going to be much harder for anyone to pull off in the future.”
Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2018