Mark Zuckerberg wants you to know hes trying his damnedest to fix Facebook before it breaks democracy. Tonight he posted a 3,260-word battle plan for fighting election interference. Amidst drilling through Facebooks strategy and progress, he slips in several notable passages revealing his own philosophy. Zuckerberg has cast off his premature skepticism and is ready to command the troops. He sees Facebooks real identity policy as a powerful weapon for truth other social networks lack, but that would be weakened if Instagram and WhatsApp were split off by regulators. Hes done with the finger-pointing and wants everyone to work together on solutions. And hes adopted a touch of cynicism that could open his eyes and help him predict how people will misuse his creation. Here are the most important parts of Zuckerbergs security manifesto: Zuckerberg embraces his war-time tactician roleWhile we want to move quickly when we identify a threat, its also important to wait until we uncover as much of the network as we can before we take accounts down to avoid tipping off our adversaries, who would otherwise take extra steps to cover their remaining tracks. And ideally, we time these takedowns to cause the maximum disruption to their operations. The fury he unleashed on Google+, Snapchat, and Facebooks IPO-killer is now aimed at election attackersThese are incredibly complex and important problems, and this has been an intense year. I am bringing the same focus and rigor to addressing these issues that Ive brought to previous product challenges like shifting our services to mobile. Balancing free speech and security is complicated and expensiveThese issues are even harder because people dont agree on what a good outcome looks like, or what tradeoffs are acceptable to make. When it comes to free expression, thoughtful people come to different conclusions about the right balances. When it comes to implementing a solution, certainly some investors disagree with my approach to invest so much in security. Putting Twitter and YouTube on blast for allowing pseudonymity… One advantage Facebook has is that we have a principle that you must use your real identity. This means we have a clear notion of whats an authentic account. This is harder with services like Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube, iMessage, or any other service where you dont need to provide your real identity. … While making an argument for why the Internet is more secure if Facebook isnt broken upFortunately, our systems are shared, so when we find bad actors on Facebook, we can also remove accounts linked to them on Instagram and WhatsApp as well. And where we can share information with other companies, we can also help them remove fake accounts too. Political ads arent a business, theyre supposedly a moral dutyWhen deciding on this policy, we also discussed whether it would be better to ban political ads altogether. Initially, this seemed simple and attractive. But we decided against it — not due to money, as this new verification process is costly and so we no longer make any meaningful profit on political ads — but because we believe in giving people a voice. We didnt want to take away an important tool many groups use to engage in the political process. Zuckerberg overruled staff to allow academic research on FacebookAs a result of these controversies [like Cambridge Analytica] , there was considerable concern amongst Facebook employees about allowing researchers to access data. Ultimately, I decided that the benefits of enabling this kind of academic research outweigh the risks. But we are dedicating significant resources to ensuring this research is conducted in a way that respects peoples privacy and meets the highest ethical standards. Calling on law enforcement to step upThere are certain critical signals that only law enforcement has access to, like money flows. For example, our systems make it significantly harder to set up fake accounts or buy political ads from outside the country. But it would still be very difficult without additional intelligence for Facebook or others to figure out if a foreign adversary had set up a company in the US, wired money to it, and then registered an authentic account on our services and bought ads from the US.Instead of minimizing their own blame, the major players must unite forcesPreventing election interference is bigger than any single organization. Its now clear that everyone — governments, tech companies, and independent experts such as the Atlantic Council — need to do a better job sharing the signals and information they have to prevent abuse . . . The last point Ill make is that were all in this together. The definition of success is that we stop cyberattacks and coordinated information operations before they can cause harm. The end of Zuckerbergs utopic idealismOne of the important lessons Ive learned is that when you build services that connect billions of people across countries and cultures, youre going to see all of the good humanity is capable of, and youre also going to see people try to abuse those services in every way possible.
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.