Facebook failing to stop political manipulation: fired employee

15 Septembre, 2020, 19:08 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Facebook failing to stop political manipulation: fired employee

Facebook did not disclose this publicly, but the former employee, who wrote a 6,600 word memo on how the social network has been used for political purposes around the world, wrote that this attempt was silently taken down.

A scathing memo written by Sophie Zhang on her last day at Facebook, obtained by BuzzFeed News, claimed the California giant ignored or was slow to act on fake accounts used to undermine elections and political affairs in numerous countries. The company would not comment on why Zhang was sacked.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen in a file photo.

"We've built specialized teams, working with leading experts, to stop bad actors from abusing our systems, resulting in the removal of more than 100 networks for coordinated inauthentic behavior". "It's highly involved work that these teams do as their full-time remit", the spokesperson added. "Working against coordinated inauthentic behavior is our priority, but we're also addressing the problems of spam and fake engagement". We investigate each issue carefully, including those that Ms. Zhang raises, before we take action or go out and make claims publicly as a company, ' the statement continued.

But Facebook tended to "focus on global activity that posed public relations risks, as opposed to electoral or civic harm", Buzzfeed News reports from the memo. In it, she says she was sacked after she asked for more resources to handle political and civic manipulation. Zhang said she removed the activity.

"In the three years I've spent at Facebook, I've found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry", Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data scientist said in the memo, as reported by BuzzFeed.

'I have personally made decisions that affected national presidents without oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians globally that I've lost count, ' she wrote.

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In Bolivia, there was "inauthentic activity supporting the opposition presidential candidate in 2019" but the engineer's workload meant this was not a priority, it has been claimed. In February 2019, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation researcher informed Facebook that he got to know about "Russian inauthentic activity on a high-profile U.S. political figure".

After the coronavirus pandemic devastated that country, Zhang wondered whether her decision played a role in the government's actions. "I have made countless decisions in this vein - from Iraq to Indonesia, from Italy to El Salvador", Zhang said. Individually, the impact was likely small in each case, but the world is a vast place. And while she and other employees did the best jobs they could, Zhang said she's certain mistakes were made, and "I know that I have blood on my hands by now". She stated in the memo that in just six months into her job at Facebook, she found coordinated inauthentic behaviour at the company, BuzzFeed reported. Instead, she wrote, she faced stonewalling and delays largely from Facebook's policy and legal teams. 'Yet despite the blatantly violating nature of this activity, it took me nearly a year to take down his operation'.

In Azerbaijan, Zhang wrote that she discovered that President Ilham Aliyev's ruling political party 'utilized thousands of inauthentic assets.to harass the opposition en masse'.

In response to Zhang's post, Facebook said the company regularly removed coordinated influence campaigns, and had a large team working on security.

She said that the influence campaigns appeared to be targeted at boosting 'major politicians of all persuasions in Brazil, and a number of lower-level politicians in the United States'.

Zhang clarified that she doesn't think Facebook is run by malicious people with an agenda.

"Facebook projects an image of strength and competence to the outside world", Zhang wrote. She said she had "blood on my hands by now", blaming herself at least in part for some of the political strife that erupted in many of these nations.

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