The surfacing in March of Cambridge Analytica’s social media breaches, with a whistleblower claiming that that over 50 million Facebook profiles were used to manipulate polls including the 2016 U.S. elections, meant that similar concerns have shrouded upcoming elections elsewhere this year. Among these are the general elections in Pakistan, scheduled to be held this summer. On April 6, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced two steps that would be introduced to address these apprehensions. “From now on, every advertiser who wants to run political or issue ads will need to be verified. To get verified, advertisers will need to confirm their identity and location,” he wrote on Facebook. “Second, we will also require people who manage large pages to be verified as well. This will make it much harder for people to run pages using fake accounts, or to grow virally and spread misinformation or divisive content that way.”
While testifying before a joint hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committees, Zuckerberg said his company was introducing the latest new artificial intelligence tools to target fake accounts.
However, digital analysts and rights activists warn that while these actions would help protect data henceforth, Facebook can’t do much to undo the damage that might’ve already been done owing to the data leaks from the past.
“There is no way of undoing a particular case of data theft. Short of deleting or destroying the database, no other action would be useful, and it’s nearly impossible since as they say ‘the data has left the building’,” says Asad Baig, the founder and executive director of Media Matters for Democracy, while speaking with The Diplomat.