After being gamed by Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential election, Facebook says it’s working to tighten election security ahead of the midterm elections. Company executives detailed new initiatives to prevent foreign interference and anticipate new tactics to undermine the integrity of the November elections. Thursday’s remarks were part of a widening public relations campaign to rebuild consumer trust following the Cambridge Analytica data leak, which gave access to the personal information of tens of millions of Facebook users to a political ad targeting firm without their consent. They come as concern mounts that Facebook can be too easily exploited to disrupt elections and democracies around the globe. “We’ve gotten progressively better over the last year and a half,” Samidh Chakrabarti, who leads Facebook’s work on election security and civic engagement, told reporters. “We feel like we’re going to be in a really good place for the 2018 midterms.”
Though Facebook is pledging to bring “unprecedented” transparency over political messaging, executives refused to say if Facebook supports proposed federal legislation to regulate political ads on the social network and disclose the identities of those who buy them.
And Facebook said it’s focused on paid ads run by federal candidates or political committees, not the negative appeals to Facebook users on hot-button social issues that were deployed by Russian operatives in 2016.
Many of the ads linked to Russian operatives did not call for people to vote for a specific candidate. Instead, Russians, posing as Americans, spread divisive messages to stir up voters and public outrage. Federal law bars foreign interests from making campaign contributions or interfering with U.S. elections.