No Facebook guarantee possible on stopping election interference – Zuckerberg

Network chief: It should not be for private firms alone to decide how to police online world

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg leaving the Merrion Hotel in Dublin on Tuesday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg leaving the Merrion Hotel in Dublin on Tuesday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has said he could not guarantee his social network would not be used to undermine forthcoming EU elections – but that it would apply a “full battery” of measures to stop bad actors from influencing events.

Shortly after making his appeal for greater societal involvement in online regulation, Mr Zuckerberg said while Facebook had “gotten better” at policing content since the 2016 US presidential election, the modern world had brought its own challenges to politics.

“We have certainly made a lot of progress in building defences to protect the integrity of elections, but no, I don’t think anyone can guarantee in a world where you have nation states that are trying to interfere in elections – there is no single thing that we can do and say, okay, we have now solved the issue,” he said, when asked about the prospect of preventing politically motivated interference.

Mr Zuckerberg was visiting his company’s European headquarters in Dublin, where he repeated recent calls for internet regulation.

Speaking to RTÉ, he said the social media giant had done much to combat malicious behaviour, but that it should not be the role of private companies alone to decide how best to police an online world.

Verifying identities

As for the European elections, he said Facebook would be verifying the identities of anyone who wanted to run political ads or large pages.

The company would work alongside election commissions and intelligence agencies to look for bad actors before they spread misinformation, he said.

On the broader issue of how online content could be supervised, Mr Zuckerberg said “there is a role for a broader public debate here, and some of these things I think would benefit from a more democratic process”.

“I think that it would be beneficial for governments, not just in Ireland but around the world, to put in place clear laws and say some of these issues, advertising on them from people outside of the country, that that should be regulated.”

In the meantime, Facebook has been expanding its artificial intelligence-led approach to detecting and removing unwanted or “harmful” content.

Mr Zuckerberg explained that while this has already proved successful in tracking 99 per cent of terrorist-related content, work was being done – much of it by his team in Ireland – to apply it to other areas including hate speech, bullying and child safety, and election interference.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said. “This is what I have personally spent a lot of my last few years on; we are investing a lot in this.”