Zuckerberg: US government inaction allowed fake news to spread

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the annual F8 summit at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. (AFP)
Updated 27 June 2019
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Zuckerberg: US government inaction allowed fake news to spread

  • The CEO also called on governments to further regulate private data, political advertising and step up efforts to prevent state actors from interfering in US elections
  • Zuckerberg also said the leading social network is struggling to find ways to deal with “deepfake” videos

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that a lack of action by US authorities on fake political content on the platform after the 2016 US election helped pave the way for a subsequent avalanche of online disinformation.
The CEO — who has himself been widely criticized for a lackluster response to fake news — also called on governments to further regulate private data, political advertising and step up efforts to prevent state actors from interfering in US elections.
“As a private company we don’t have the tools to make the Russian government stop... our government is the one that has the tools to apply pressure to Russia,” he said during an on-stage interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado.
“After 2016 when the government didn’t take any kind of counter action, the signal that was sent to the world was that ‘ok we’re open for business’, countries can try to do this stuff... fundamentally there isn’t going to be a major recourse from the American government.”
Zuckerberg also said the leading social network is struggling to find ways to deal with “deepfake” videos which have the potential to deceive and manipulate users on a massive scale.
The comments come amid growing concern over deepfakes — which are altered by using artificial intelligence to appear genuine — being used to manipulate elections or potentially spark unrest.
Earlier this month, Facebook’s Instagram network decided not to take down a fake video of Zuckerberg himself, saying the CEO would not get special treatment.
Online platforms have been walking a fine line, working to root out misinformation and manipulation efforts while keeping open to free speech.
Zuckerberg said this is a constant challenge, repeating his position that Facebook should not be an arbiter of truth on the Internet.
“I do not think we want to go so far toward saying that a private company prevents you from saying something that it thinks is factually incorrect to another person,” he said.


Facebook to create privacy panel, pay $5bn to US to settle allegations

Updated 24 July 2019
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Facebook to create privacy panel, pay $5bn to US to settle allegations

  • As part of the settlement, Facebook will agree to create a board committee on privacy
  • It will also agree to new executive certifications that users’ privacy is being properly protected

WASHINGTON: The Federal Trade Commission is set to announce on Wednesday that Facebook Inc. has agreed to a sweeping settlement of significant allegations it mishandled user privacy and pay $5 billion, two people briefed on the matter said.
As part of the settlement, Facebook will agree to create a board committee on privacy and will agree to new executive certifications that users’ privacy is being properly protected, the people said.
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg will have to certify every three months that the company is properly safeguarding user privacy, a person briefed on the matter said.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the FTC will allege Facebook misled users about its handling of their phone numbers and its use of two-factor authentication as part of a wide-ranging complaint that accompanies a settlement ending the government’s privacy probe, citing two people familiar with the matter.
Separately, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to announce a related settlement with Facebook for around $100 million over allegations it failed to disclose risks to investors over its privacy practices. The Wall Street Journal reported the SEC settlement earlier.
The Post also reported the FTC also plans to allege Facebook provided insufficient information to about 30 million users about a facial recognition tool, an issue identified earlier by Consumer Reports.
The settlement comes amid growing concern among US policymakers about the privacy of online users and have sparked calls for new legal protections in Congress. Separately, the US Justice Department said late Tuesday it is launching a broad antitrust probe into the competitive practices of large tech companies like Facebook.
Two people briefed on the matter confirmed the Post report the FTC will not require Facebook to admit guilt as part of the settlement. The settlement will need to be approved by a federal judge and will contain other significant allegations of privacy lapses, the people said.
The fine will mark the largest civil penalty ever paid to the FTC.
The FTC and Facebook declined to comment.
The FTC confirmed in March 2018 it had opened an investigation into allegations Facebook inappropriately shared information belonging to 87 million users with the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The probe has focused on whether the data sharing violated a 2011 consent agreement between Facebook and the regulator and then widened to include other privacy allegations.
A person briefed on the matter said the phone number, facial recognition and two-factor authentication issues were not part of the initial Cambridge Analytica probe.
Some in Congress have criticized the reported $5 billion penalty, noting Facebook in 2018 had $55.8 billion in revenue and $22.1 billion in net income. Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, said last week the fine should be $50 billion.
While the deal resolves a major regulatory headache for Facebook, the Silicon Valley firm still faces further potential antitrust probes as the FTC and Justice Department undertake a wide-ranging review of competition among the biggest US tech companies. Facebook is also facing public criticism from President Donald Trump and others about its planned cryptocurrency Libra over concerns about privacy and money laundering.
The Cambridge Analytica missteps, as well as anger over hate speech and misinformation on its platform, have prompted calls from people ranging from presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren to a Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, for the government to force the social media giant to sell Instagram, which it bought in 2012, and WhatsApp, purchased in 2014.
But the company’s core business has proven resilient, as Facebook blew past earnings estimates in the past two quarters. Facebook is set to report earnings on Wednesday.