- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2019

Facebook outlined new steps Monday to prevent efforts to use its platform as a tool for interfering in election politics around the world.

As part of the new push, Facebook announced the release of a security tool that will allow monitoring of the accounts of elected officials and candidates for attempted hacking. Facebook said Monday that the company also will label state-controlled media as such on its platform, more clearly identify fact checks, and invest $2 million in media literacy projects.

The company said it will add more prominent labels on debunked posts on Facebook as well as on Instagram. It will put labels on top of what are deemed “false” and “partly false” photos and videos.

Starting with large pages in the U.S., Facebook said, it will add a new section about “organizations that manage this page” and provide more information about who is behind a page. The moves come after the company said it noticed groups and people “failing” to disclose the organizations behind pages so people think they are run independently.

In a speech at Georgetown University last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined some of the challenges of fact-checking on its platform and noted that Facebook would not work to debunk claims made in political ads. Mr. Zuckerberg said Facebook’s focus on authenticity and verifying its users was preferable to attempting to define what sort of speech is harmful.

“We now require you to provide a government ID and prove your location if you want to run political ads or a large page,” Mr. Zuckerberg said last week. “You can still say controversial things, but you have to stand behind them with your real identity and face accountability. … We now remove billions of fake accounts a year — most within minutes of registering and before they do much.

“As a principle, in a democracy, I believe people should decide what is credible, not tech companies.”

Critics of Facebook’s efforts have said the company has not gone far enough and that the company’s problems stem from its business model, which is built on targeted ads and keeping users entertained and engaging with the content hosted on its platform.

Facebook’s right-leaning critics in the United States have accused the platform of unfairly blocking conservative content, while liberals have voiced concerns over Facebook’s ubiquitous nature online as akin to a monopoly.

Mr. Zuckerberg has said that having all sides of the political divide “angry at us” means that the platform must be fair, and he has framed the future of the global internet as a choice dependent upon American values vs. Chinese values.

“Until recently, the internet in almost every country outside China has been defined by American platforms with strong free-expression values,” Mr. Zuckerberg said at Georgetown. “There’s no guarantee that these values will win out. A decade ago, almost all of the major internet platforms were American. Today, six of the top 10 are Chinese.”

Whether any of Facebook’s changes have an immediate impact remains to be seen. At least four people were killed Sunday in southern Bangladesh after security officials fired on protesters angry over a Facebook post allegedly undermining Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, but the poster said his account was hacked.

Mr. Zuckerberg is scheduled to be back in Washington this week to testify before the House Financial Services Committee.

• This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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