As Facebook faces intense fake news scrutiny after disclosing the details about the presence of Russian political ads worth $100,000 on its platform during the 2016 US presidential election, it was none other than former President Barack Obama who had warned CEO Mark Zuckerberg about fake news on Facebook. According to a report in The Washington Post late on Sunday, in November last year, Obama made a personal appeal to Zuckerberg to take the threat of fake news and political disinformation seriously.
“Unless Facebook and the government did more to address the threat, Obama warned, it would only get worse in the next presidential race,” the report added. However, Zuckerberg acknowledged the problem posed by fake news but “told Obama that those messages weren’t widespread on Facebook and that there was no easy remedy”.
Now, after an extensive legal and policy review, the social media giant has announced it would now share those 3,000 Russian ads with Congressional investigators. Facebook announced it had found more than 3,000 ads addressing social and political issues that ran in the US between 2015 and 2017 and that appear to have come from accounts associated with a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency.
Facebook earlier handed over the details to American Special Counsel Robert Mueller that included copies of the ads and details about the accounts that bought them and the targeting criteria they used. Zuckerberg, who returned after taking parental leave after his second daughter was born, said in a post last week that he deeply cares about the democratic process and protecting its integrity.
Zuckerberg said “We will continue our investigation into what happened on Facebook in this election. We may find more, and if we do, we will continue to work with the government”. The Facebook CEO noted that the social media company has already provided information regarding this issue with the special counsel and have also briefed Congress about it.
He stressed the company would now make political advertising more transparent. When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they are required by law to disclose who paid for them. The company would strengthen the ad review process for political ads. Facebook would now increase investment in security and specifically election integrity. “In the next year, we will more than double the team working on election integrity. In total, we’ll add more than 250 people across all our teams focused on security and safety for our community,” Zuckerberg said.