Facebook admits governments use platform to spread propaganda

Facebook is stepping up its efforts to counter bids by governments and other actors to spread misinformation and political propaganda online, it revealed Thursday.

The new effort expands Facebook’s security efforts beyond “abusive” actions such as hacking and financial scams to “more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people,” according to a white paper released by the world’s leading social network.

With the new effort, Facebook will be using its security team to take aim at so-called “information operations” that aim “to distort domestic or foreign political sentiment,” the document said.

Facebook said it will focus on three areas in this drive: “targeted data collection” by governments to locate and counter dissidents; “content creation” or fake news spread via the social network; and “false amplification,” or using artificial means or automated “bots” to promote or denigrate a group or cause.

In a bid to tackle information operations, Facebook suspended 30,000 accounts in France before the first round of the presidential elections last week, saying it was removing suspicious accounts with large audiences and a high volume of posts.

Facebook also said it “responded to several situations that we assessed to fit the pattern of information operations” during the 2016 US presidential election.

“We have no evidence of any Facebook accounts being compromised as part of this activity, but, nonetheless, we detected and monitored these efforts in order to protect the authentic connections that define our platform,” the report said.


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