Were now less than two months out from the US midterm elections, and the pre-emptive assurances about security from social media sites, particularly Facebook, are now colored by a sense of urgency. Today, CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a massive blog post detailing the steps the company has already taken to prevent further election interference, and spiced it up by calling on everyone who isnt Facebook to step up as well. Hes probably justified in his need to comment. Just last week, Facebooks COO Sheryl Sandberg was testifying about election interference before Congress, meaning elected officials consider it a serious issue. Last year, Facebook was forced to admit Russian-backed posts had reached 126 million Americans, often fomenting acrimony between political groups or distributing fake news. It's our cool new gadget site. In his lengthy manifesto — most of which youll recognize as being identical to his op-ed in the Washington Post from earlier this month — Zuckerberg mentioned how other entities, including governments and other tech companies, could help in its efforts to amplify the good and mitigate the harm. In fact, he almost implied it wasnt just Facebook who was at fault in the 2016 mess: Preventing election interference is bigger than any single organization. Its now clear that everyone… [ needs] to do a better job sharing the signals and information they have to prevent abuse. To be fair, his point that coordinated attacks are often not limited to one service is a good one. Twitter was also a fake news focal point, and Id argue its just as infested with bots as Facebook, if not more. Zuckerberg does repeat several of the same defenses hes used ever since the 2016 election, specifically that Facebook itself simply didnt anticipate the onslaught: In 2016, we were not prepared for the coordinated information operations we now regularly face. The plea of ignorance is a well-worn one for him — during his Congressional testimony earlier this year, he denied knowledge of things so often viewers could make a drinking game out of the number of times he said the people who did have the information would follow up with the questioning Senator. So his implication that were all in this together and everyone needs to be better at preventing this seems a little disingenuous given Facebooks apparently chaotic handling of the whole situation. Facebook itself doesnt seem to have bothered putting in the effort ahead of the election, so what is this if not a plea for other groups to pick up their slack? Zuckerberg also says this towards the end of his piece: While Id always rather Facebook identified abuse first, that wont always be possible. Sometimes well only find activity with tips from governments, other tech companies, or journalists. We need to create a culture where stopping these threats is what constitutes success — not where the information that uncovered the attack came from. I cant help but hear a reproof in that, as if the media and government were somehow gloating about the fact theyve discovered wrongdoing before Facebook itself did. If I were The Guardian, or The New York Times, or New Scientist, Id be a little insulted. Those particular tips were reports on things Facebook already knew about. They werent big gotcha moments, and I certainly wouldnt see them as a success.
The Facebook CEO wants tech rivals and law enforcement to chip in ahead of the midterms. Just days after his op-ed in The Washington Post, Mark Zuckerberg has published another lengthy note titled 'Preparing for Elections,' this time via Facebook. In it the Facebook CEO describes his platform's removal of fake accounts ahead of elections in France, Germany, Alabama, Mexico, and Brazil -- along with its takedown of foreign influence campaigns from Russia and Iran targeting the US, UK, and Middle East. Despite clocking in at an epic 3,000 words, the note is essentially a retread of his past statements and Facebook's already announced security updates. He even repeats his election interference is an "arms race" rallying cry. But its timing is significant: the midterms are fast approaching, during which Congress will be keeping a close eye on the world's biggest social network. And Zuckerberg's message to US lawmakers here is "[Facebook] wasn't prepared enough in 2016, [is] better prepared now, will need cooperation from all angles to do better." The stakeholders, claims Zuckerberg, are governments, tech companies ( Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram have fallen prey to misinformation campaigns too), and independent experts. Days earlier in The Washington Post, he'd called for closer ties between the public and private sectors -- and is now also asking for cooperation with intelligence agencies and law enforcement to help track "money flows" from "foreign adversaries." "Traditional cyberattacks remain a big problem for everyone, and many democracies are at risk of attacks on critical election infrastructure like voting machines," writes Zuckerberg. "The more we can share intelligence, the better prepared each organization will be." Yes we've heard it all before, and it's now starting to sound like an information campaign of its own -- whether its aimed at governments, the public, or Facebook's partners (or all three).