Tag: uselection

Facebook locks down key data as researchers analyze Russian influence

The truth behind Facebook's involvement in Russian voter hacks continues to get more complicated. The social media company apparently knew about Russian meddling even before last year's US election. Mark Zuckerberg's company reported that 10 million people saw Russian political ads, and has handed over Russia-linked ads to Congress. According to a report in The Washington Post, however, Facebook recently scrubbed the internet of thousands of posts related to social media analyst Jonathan Albright's research that apparently concluded that at least twice as many people had seen the ads than Facebook reported.

Needless to say, the researcher is upset. "This is public interest data," Albright told the Post. "This data allowed us to at least reconstruct some of the pieces of the puzzle. Not everything, but it allowed us to make sense of some of this thing."

Facebook confirmed to The Washington Post that while the posts had been removed, it was due to a bug in its analytics tool CrowdTangle. According to the company, Albright should never have been able to see this information. When the "bug" was quashed, Facebook told the Post, advertisers (and analysits like Albright) could no longer see information from "cached" posts that had already been taken down on Facebook (and Instagram). "We identified and fixed a bug in CrowdTangle that allowed users to see cached information from inactive Facebook Pages," Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told the Post. "Across all our platforms we have privacy commitments to make inactive content that is no longer available, inaccessible."

It's hard not to see this as a convenient excuse to hide tens of millions of potentially damning data, of course, especially as COO Sheryl Sandberg has committed the company to transparency around the fake Russian ads. Social media analysis has become a large part of figuring out what happens in our society, and not allowing access to even "taken down" posts can seem alarming. We've reached out to Facebook for comment on this matter and will update the post when we hear back.

Source: The Washington Post


Facebook may still not know full extent of Russian ad buys

It's been just over a week since Facebook admitted to discovering that it sold $100,000 in ads to hundreds of fake pages and accounts that were both related to each other and apparently run from Russia. Both Democratic and Republican senators are looking for some sort of public hearing on the matter. Now, according to a report by CNN Money, sources familiar with the matter say that Facebook still doesn't know the full extent of the possible fake news ring and that there still may be more ads on Facebook to this day.

CNN's Dylan Byers writes that ad buys on Facebook are purchased via an automated self-service tool, which avoids any human interaction from the social network. Facebook's Andy Stone told CNN that there wasn't any communication between the people who bought the discovered ads and the website's sales team. This apparently happens with larger ad buys. While this might be one way to shift the blame from itself, notes Byers, Facebook will still need to figure out how to prevent these systems from being exploited in the future.

According to CNN, Facebook employees have taken to internal message boards to call for more transparency about the content of these ads. So far, the company has only said that the ads weren't directly about the US election, but mainly focused on spreading social messages to help reinforce the divide between political sides - including "topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights." About one-fourth of the ads were targeted to specific geographical locations, as well.

Facebook's statement on the matter says that in addition to new tech to detect fake accounts and reduce misinformation, the company is working on ways to "better detect inauthentic Pages and the ads they may run," along with changes to help "more efficiently detect and stop inauthentic accounts" when they're actually created.

We've reached out to Facebook for comment and will update this post when we hear back.

Source: CNN Money