Facebook was not aware of exactly how far Russia was performing to affect the results of the 2016 U.S. election–but they did talk about fake news repeatedly with former President Barack Obama.
A Sunday story by The Washington Post reported that Obama talked with Zuckerberg about bogus news at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru in November, days following the election. That conversation was not about overseas influence or Russia, however.
Another detail uncovered by WaPo was that Facebook approached the FBI in June 2016 with signs of Russian reports, according to several anonymous sources. This report comes a month after Facebook came ahead with 3,000 Russian-linked advertisements sold throughout the 2016 election. Prior to the success of Trump, Facebook didn’t understand spend.
The report provides increased understanding of just what happened on Facebook throughout the 2016 election, and also what the organization’s own cybersecurity employees understood (and when they understood it) about Russia’s use of its ad platform to influence voter turnout. Soon after the election, Zuckerberg referred to bogus news influencing the presidential election as a “pretty crazy idea,” but today every new accounts makes that sentence more cringeworthy. Last Friday, Zuckerberg utilized Facebook Live to publicly his firm’s “next steps protecting election integrity” and further clarify what had happened during the previous month.
Obama reportedly had attempted to warn Zuckerberg about his platform’s influence to news with regards. The first time was in January. A New York Times Magazine article from April also noted the meeting, but WaPo‘s report investigates more of the conversation and the battle.
Zuckerberg said in November that his group did know on the election of the probability of news. Facebook’s safety team had uncovered those accounts from a Kremlin-backed hacking group APT28 in June this past year. But according to WaPo, Zuckerberg downplayed the sway and stated this kind of problem was not widespread and that there was also very little they can do at the moment.
However, Obama reportedly did step in to issue warning–but without understanding just exactly what the Russians were around. And yet, at the moment, Facebook failed to find a specific link between the 2016 election, Facebook advertisements, and Russian operatives.
“We believe in the ability of democracy, which is the reason why we’re taking this job on elections integrity so seriously, and have come forward at every opportunity to share what we’ve discovered,” Elliot Schrage, vice president for public policy and communications, said in a statement after WaPo‘s narrative Sunday.
“At precisely the exact same time, we’ll keep doing our part to assist people participate in democracies around the world — by simply linking them with information about the best way best to vote, on who their representatives are, and about which issues are at stake,” the statement continued.
Facebook’s team issued another statement that denied any conversation to further clarify the conversation involving Obama and Zuckerberg.
“We appreciated President Obama’s focus to these issues. Their conversation was all about misinformation and false news, which Mark had addressed the previous afternoon in a post that outlined specific steps Facebook was taking to combat these challenges,” said Schrage, referencing this extended article from Zuckerberg from Nov. 19.
“The conversation didn’t include any references to possible foreign interference or suggestions about facing threats to Facebook,” Schrage said.
The several statements from Schrage come as Sen. Mark Warner from Virginia has been calling for more transparency from Facebook in regards to fake Russian and news advertisements bought during the 2016 election. Facebook and special counselor and FBI director Robert Mueller have been cooperating with his investigation to the disturbance of Russia.
A Facebook spokesperson informed Mashable earlier this month that they were clear with the FBI and the analysis and promptly delivered reports to officials when they had been uncovered. Before the election, the business found no signs of advertisements. The 3,000 advertisements from roughly $100,000 in spending were discovered.
It appears that there might have been a deficiency of plans that are aligned. Obama aides reportedly regret not doing more to address the issue of Russian accounts on Facebook, according to WaPo.
Now, however, it’s apparent the Sen. Warner, other lawmakers, and also the continuing Mueller evaluation has turned up the heat on Facebook and other digital platforms. Zuckerberg stated last week his company will begin better self-regulating themselves to prevent against future attacks on political elections. For instance, all political ad creative will be publicly available.
Editor’s note: This piece was updated to clarify the timeline of communicating between Facebook and the U.S. government and clarify that Russia was not discussed.
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