During last week’s midterm elections, while you were busy marking your ballot, Facebook was running a War Room. As part of a master plan by Facebook to eliminate opportunities for election interference, the war room served as central command for engineers and data scientists to collaboratively circumvent and control election ‘meddling’.
On Sunday, November 4, prior to Election Day, Facebook removed approximately 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts that, as Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy Nathaniel Gleicher, explained, “…may be engage in coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
Gleicher added, “We immediately blocked these accounts and are now investigating them in more detail. Almost all the Facebook Pages associated with these accounts appear to be in the French or Russian languages, while the Instagram accounts seem to have mostly been in English — some were focused on celebrities, others political debate.”
What Goes on in the Facebook War Room
To support the War Room, Facebook hired thousands of new moderators, enlisted the assistance of former US intelligence officials, expanded its artificial intelligence and defined new guidelines and policies for political advertising. Relying on these guidelines, and a defined chain of command, Facebook moderators and team leaders made case-by-case decisions, evaluating whether content upheld or violated Facebook’s new tougher policies. In some cases, where the issues were particularly tricky, decisions went all the way up the chain of command to CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Beyond the Elections
The War Room is only one piece of Facebook’s effort to thwart socio-political misuse of the platform. Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s director of elections and head of civic engagement, said that trolls are getting increasingly more sophisticated.
In an interview with CNN, Chakrabarti described the war room as the result of, “…two years of massive investments we’ve made both in people and technology to ensure that our platforms are safe and secure for elections. So it builds upon work that we’ve done to crack down on fake accounts, on combating the spread of fake news on our platforms.”
Listed among Facebook’s recent accomplishments to clean up and control the trolls and other would-be manipulators are the removal of 1700 fake Women’s March pages, reportedly run from Bangladesh and the removal of a network of suspected Russian-linked pages that posed as American activists.