Facebook concedes it failed to stop spread of misinformation on social media platform

Facebook has conceded it did not act fast enough to stamp out foreign interference on its platform during the 2016 US election.

The social media giant has been widely condemned for failing to act and stop the spread of misinformation on Facebook ahead of the US election.

At a parliamentary inquiry into foreign influence on social media, Facebook’s global head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, was grilled about allegations the organisation knew about the influence on the platform.

Mr Gleicher said the social media giant wasn’t alone in failing to act.

“We were surprised and we did not react fast enough to what happened in 2016. I think it is also true government wasn’t ready for the pivot that we saw and neither was civil society or across industry,” he said.

The social media giant insisted it was now better equipped to handle the spread of misinformation ahead of the next Australian federal election.

“I think we’ve started and have very steady work with your elections integrity teams,” Mr Gleicher said.

“But, of course, the caveat that I would always offer as the security guy is, we know that the threat actors are continuing to innovate, so we always have to be sort of improving and thinking ahead what’s coming next.”

The Senate select committee is considering the risk posed to Australia’s democracy by foreign interference through social media.

Australian electoral commissioner Tom Rodgers warned that the electoral body had done as much as it could to keep social media giants accountable.

“I think from our perspective we’ve done about as much as we can do to make sure they are responsive,” he said.

“Before the 2019 election, we met with most of the major social media companies … we’ve outlined our requirements.

“But I acknowledge that we have limited control over what they do.”

Google has insisted it has found no instances of foreign co-ordinated influence campaigns targeting Australia.

However, Law Enforcement and Information Security director Richard Salgado told the inquiry that users may still access disinformation campaigns not specifically targeting Australians.

“Some of these campaigns are broad enough that the disinformation could be sort of divisive, in any jurisdiction in which it is consumed, even if it’s not targeting that jurisdiction,” he said.

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