Protecting the European Parliament Elections

By Anika Geisel, Public Policy Elections, Europe

Protecting the integrity of elections while making sure people can have a voice is a top priority for Facebook. Learning from every election over the last two years, we have increased our capabilities to take down fake accounts, reduce false news, increase ads transparency, disrupt bad actors and support an informed and engaged electorate. Today, we are sharing more details on what we will be doing ahead of the European Parliament Elections in May.

First, we’re committed to setting a high standard for transparency when it comes to political advertising on Facebook.

In late March, we will launch new tools to help prevent foreign interference in the upcoming elections and make political advertising on Facebook more transparent. Advertisers will need to be authorized before purchasing political ads and far more information about the ads themselves will be made available for people to see.

To run electoral ads or ads about highly debated and important issues related to the European Parliament Elections, advertisers will be required to confirm their identity and include additional information about who is responsible for their ads. While the vast majority of ads on Facebook are run by legitimate organisations, we know that there are bad actors that try to misuse our platform.

When you click on the “paid for by” disclaimer, you will be taken to the Ad Library. The library will share information on the ad’s performance, like range of spend and impressions, as well as demographics of who saw it – like age, gender and location. The library is completely searchable and can be accessed by anyone in the world regardless of whether they have a Facebook account or not at facebook.com/adlibrary.

These tools will cover not only campaign ads, but also issue ads – ads which don’t mention a candidate or political party but do discuss highly-debated and important topics.

While we are pleased with the progress we’ve made in the countries where we have rolled out our ads transparency tools, we understand that they will not prevent abuse entirely. We’re up against smart and well-funded adversaries who are adapting and changing their tactics, just as we are getting better at preventing abuse. But we believe that this higher level of transparency is good for democracy and is good for the electoral process. Transparency helps everyone, including political watchdog groups and journalists, keep advertisers accountable for who they say they are and what they say to different audiences.

Our work to fight false news also continues to improve. We have a three-step approach to improving the quality and authenticity of stories in News Feed. First, we remove content that violates our Community Standards, which helps protect the safety and security of the platform. Then, for content that does not directly violate our Community Standards, but still undermines the authenticity of the platform, we reduce its distribution by demoting it in the News Feed. Finally, we inform people by giving them more context on the information they see in News Feed. These context units are an example of a product where we give people additional information, by sharing more details on the article and the publisher.

We’ve continued to expand our fact-checking program. Today, our fact-checking program covers content in 16 languages. We’ve also rolled out the ability for fact-checkers to review photos and videos, in addition to article links, because we know multimedia-based misinformation is making up a greater share of false news. When a fact-checker rates a post as false, we down-rank it in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution. This stops a post from spreading and reduces the number of people who see it. Pages and domains that repeatedly share false news will also see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetize and advertise removed. This helps curb the spread of financially-motivated false news.

Our security team is working around the clock to help us stay a step ahead and uncover platform abuse. We have removed thousands of Pages, groups and accounts that engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior across our platforms. We are committed to making improvements and building stronger partnerships around the world to more effectively detect and stop this activity.

Building on the work of the last months and to better coordinate the work in the final weeks before the European Parliament Elections, we are planning to set up new operations centers, focused on election integrity, including one in Dublin. This will further strengthen our coordination and rapid response capabilities, and allow our global teams to better work across regions. Working together with our teams in our Menlo Park headquarters and across Europe, the new initiative will serve as an added layer of defense against false news and misinformation, hate speech, voter suppression and election interference.

This effort will house experts from Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, and will work cross-functionally with our threat intelligence, data science, engineering, research, community operations, legal and other teams.

It will also work closely with lawmakers, election commissions, fact-checkers, researchers, academics and civil society groups to continue the fight against fake news and misinformation; help prevent the spread of voter suppression efforts; and further integrate the large number of teams working on these important issues.

While these efforts represent an improvement over the past few years, we know that our work is never finished. There have always been people trying to undermine democracy. We are up against determined adversaries who try to attack on many fronts, and we recognize our role and responsibility. We will never stop all the bad actors, but we’re making real progress and we are committed to improving.

For more on our work to protect elections around the world in 2019, see here.

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