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Zuckerberg Claims Facebook Found Russia and Iran Trying to Interfere in 2020 Election

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Zuckerberg Claims Facebook Found Russia and Iran Trying to Interfere in 2020 Election

2019-10-22 12:58:04

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Mark Zuckerberg (Image source: Presidência do México via Wikimedia Commons)


Facebook was caught in a position as a mediary in the last presidential election. It was used to secretly spread ad campaigns to manipulate voters. After this, more and more instances came up of Facebook profiting off ads and the sale of user data and users saw Facebook as a money-making business and no longer trusted it as a place to share their private lives.


CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems to have learned at least a few things in that, but he will never earn back the respect and trust that he had four years ago. 

Seemingly trying to right his company's wrongs and earn back some trust, Zuckerberg unveiled plans showing how the company plans to fight interference in 2020. They have already zeroed in on Russia and Iran trying to interfere.


"We continue to see their tactics are evolving," he said in an NBC News interview with Lester Holt. "Today, what we're basically announcing is that we found a set of campaigns. They are highly sophisticated. They signal that these nation-states intend to be active in the upcoming elections." 

China has also tried to interfere in other elections, but Zuckerberg's company has always been able to stop them.


"We do see today Russia and Iran and China increasingly with more sophisticated tactics are trying to interfere in elections," said Zuckerberg.  

"But part of why I'm confident going into 2020 is that we've played a role in defending against interference in every major election around the world since 2016, in France, in Germany, in the E.U. overall, in India, in Mexico, in Brazil."


The company announced in a blog post that it had found Russia and Iran already trying to interfere and explained it had removed four networks of accounts, pages, and groups on both Facebook and Instagram. These networks were observed engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behavior." 

Surprisingly, more of the networks originate from Iran rather than Russia, with three networks to just one. Facebook took down more than 50 networks around the world before democratic elections over the past year.


Zuckerberg wants to be sure people understand that Facebook is fighting back against this interference and gave a speech at Georgetown University. 

"Part of growing up for me has just been realizing that it is more important to be understood than it is to be liked," he said.


Facebook is also embracing systems powered by artificial intelligence to help detect the foreign manipulation on its global platform that includes 2.4 billion monthly users. 

Yet still, Zuckerberg remains firm in his decision to not do anything to stop false information being spread in political ads, highlighting that there are no other ways to fight the interference. He feels that the idea that fake news influenced the 2016 election is "crazy."


Yet, he still sees it as Facebook's responsibility to prevent foreign manipulations on the social network and says there are more than 35,000 people working on security issues. 

"That's going to be studied by academics and historians for a long time to come, what the overall effect is," explained the CEO. "There are a lot of effects. Obviously, one of the bad ones is nation-states trying to interfere in our democracy. And that's one that we need to push back on."


Facebook announced on Monday it will now label state-controlled media as such on both of its social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram). Fact-checking labels will be more prominent on news that has been determined to be false or mostly false. 

The political ads archive on Facebook will now feature a tracker of the ad-spending of each of the presidential candidates and include more details on spending at the state and regional levels, as well as whether ads ran on both platforms, Facebook and Instagram.


While all of this is being done, Facebook is also facing pushback from some politicians. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a 2020 presidential candidate, has made it known she wants to break up big tech companies, including Facebook. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is leading a group of Republicans in a charge to show that the social network is biased against conservatives. 

Zuckerberg has tried to fight back against that and has met with Fox News host Tucker Carlson and conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro. However, this has been seen by some on the left as the CEO trying to appease the right instead of focusing on efforts to keep disinformation off the social media platforms.


He finds that accusation "pretty ridiculous" and said the company reaches out to both sides of the political aisle and all cultures.  

"We operate in a lot of different places," said Zuckerberg. "You know, I'm running a company where I'm trying to make sure that we can give everyone a voice."

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