herald

Sunday 9 December 2018

Facebook promises to stop fake profiles from affecting referendum

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: AP
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: AP

Facebook is to target "fake accounts spreading misinformation" in the upcoming abortion referendum.

The social media giant said it will use newly-developed artificial intelligence tools to root out "fake" profiles and pages planted by people that try to disrupt the referendum with disinformation.

Boss Mark Zuckerberg recently revealed that Facebook was developing new technology in response to recent scandals over Russian interference in western elections.

"We will be using the same technology here in the upcoming referendum," said a spokeswoman for Facebook Ireland.

Examples of accounts that are deemed fake include those from the Russian Internet Research Agency, which Facebook says created bogus Facebook accounts that were seen by 127 million people in the past two years.

"Right now in the company, I think we have about 14,000 people working on security and community operations and review, just to make sure that we can really nail down some of those issues that we had in 2016," Mr Zuckerberg said in a US interview this week.

The move comes as campaigners on both sides of the abortion referendum prepare for a bitter contest on social media, with accusations of dirty tricks already flying.

A pro-choice Facebook page called In Her Shoes claimed it received hundreds of one-star reviews in a short period in what it called an organised attempt by pro-life opponents to restrict its content.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Love Both campaign said that pro-life groups were wary of Facebook introducing "censorship" during the referendum campaign.

Donated

"If Facebook does start to monitor things, you'd have to generally welcome that," said Cora Sherlock, "but that comes with a strong caveat that any type of monitoring doesn't descend into censorship."

Facebook has already taken action on activity related to the upcoming referendum, removing a feature that wrongly suggested pro-choice Facebook users had "donated" to a pro-life Facebook page.

Meanwhile, the 45,000 Irish people whose personal information was improperly accessed as part of the Cambridge Analytica scandal are expected to get a notification from Facebook informing them of this next week.

It came amid revelations that millions more Facebook users than previously thought may have had their data illegitimately collected by the British election consultants.

Facebook revealed on Wed- nesday that an estimated 87 million users around the world had had their personal data harvested by a quiz app downloaded by 305,000 people because of the way the social network allowed apps to access data about their friends.

In a rare interview conference call with journalists, Mr Zuckerberg admitted that both he and his company have consistently got it wrong when it comes to assessing the damage that is being done by those man- ipulating Facebook for their own ends.

He also said that Facebook is now signing up to more of Europe's privacy agenda and that it will even roll out some of the EU's strict privacy rules to all of its global users.

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