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Facebook admits that political groups have abused it for propaganda purposes

HEY THERE FACEBOOK, WHAT’S THAT YOU’RE saying? Political groups have been abusing your system to manipulate voters and stuff, and interfere with elections. You know what, we would never have guessed.

We’ve all heard that Facebook has a problem with fake news, in fact, we all have a problem with fake news. The firm has now published a whitepaper into just how much it thinks its citizens are being molested, how much about this it knows, and what it is doing to knock it on the head.

The whitepaper, called Facebook and Information (PDF), is published by the legal and privacy people at Facebook, including Alex Stamos, who hates Adobe Flash, and Jen Weeden, who is a threat detection expert at the firm. They have a mission to find small groups or individuals who spread messages with a single agenda. The problem for Facebook is that Facebook is a part of the problem.

“Civic engagement today takes place in a rapidly evolving information ecosystem. More and more, traditional forums for discussion, the exchange of ideas, and debate are mirrored online on platforms like Facebook -leading to an increase in individual access and agency in political dialogue, the scale and speed of information consumption, as well as the diversity of influences on any given conversation. These new dynamics present us with enormous opportunities, but also introduce novel challenges,” informs the Facebook truth machine.

“In this context, Facebook sits at a critical juncture. Our mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Yet it is important that we acknowledge and take steps to guard against the risks that can arise in online communities like ours. The reality is that not everyone shares our vision, and some will seek to undermine it —but we are in a position to help constructively shape the emerging information ecosystem by ensuring our platform remains a safe and secure environment for authentic civic engagement.”

Yeah, you are! Good for you Facebook. How you gonna solve it for the rest of us? With a plan of course.

“We have had to expand our security focus from traditional abusive behavior, such as account hacking, malware, spam and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people. These are complicated issues and our responses will constantly evolve, but we wanted to be transparent about our approach”.

It is being transparent, it is here with this report and that is a very good place to start. It’s a bit long, though, and it does go on and on and on about Facebook. Still if you use Facebook and expect to get a whiff of reality out of it, it’s probably worth your time.

Even if you do use Facebook, but don’t want to read a 13 page document for the benefit of your own good, you should know that the firm is acting smarter when it comes to dealing with false information relayers and provocative agents.

Facebook wants everyone to take a role in this, even us journalists, and governments, and believes that a shared load is a lighter one.

“In the end, societies will only be able to resist external information operations if all citizens have the necessary media literacy to distinguish true news from misinformation and are able to take into account the motivations of those who would seek to publish false news, flood online forums with manipulated talking points, or selectively leak and spin stolen data” it said.

“To help advance media literacy, Facebook is supporting civil society programs such as the News Integrity Coalition to improve the public’s ability to make informed judgments about the news they consume… Just as the information ecosystem in which these dynamics are playing out is a shared resource and a set of common spaces, the challenges we address here transcend the Facebook platform and represent a set of shared responsibilities”.  µ

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