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Facebook CEO vows to fight election interference

Washington, April 11: There is an online propaganda “arms race” with Russia and it was important to make sure no one interferes in any more elections including in India, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a five-hour marathon session at the US Congress. “The most important thing I care about right now is making sure no one interferes in the various 2018 elections around the world,” he testified before a 44-Setor panel. “As long as there are people sitting in Russia whose job it is to try and interfere with elections around the world, this is going to be an ongoing conflict,” the 33-year-old billioire said as he prepared to testify again, this time before a House panel. Zuckerberg has said Facebook will ensure that its platform is not misused to influence elections in India and elsewhere. 

Facebook on Monday said: “Our goals are to understand Facebook’s impact on upcoming elections — like Brazil, India, Mexico and the US midterms — and to inform our future product and policy decisions.” Facebook’s stock was up about 2 per cent even before Zuckerberg sat down. It moved even higher when he started addressing the questions from lawmakers and finished the day with a 4.5 per cent gain. Zuckerberg accepted that the company did not do enough to prevent the platform from being used to harm others.
With 44 Setors asking questions, and just five minutes of time allotted for each, there was limited potential for follow-up questions to and grilling of the CEO. His apology came as Facebook faced a widening scandal where a British political consultancy firm Cambridge Alytica improperly gathered detailed information on 87 million of its users. “It’s not enough to just connect people. We have to make sure those connections are positive. It’s not enough to give people a voice. We have to make sure people aren’t using it to harm people or spread disinformation,” Zuckerberg told Setors. Facebook was getting to the bottom of exactly what Cambridge Alytica did and telling everyone affected. Zuckerberg confirmed that his company was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US Presidential election. He continued: “I want to be careful here because our work with the special counsel is confidential and I want to make sure that in an open session I’m not revealing something that is confidential.”
Setor John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, asked Zuckerberg if he’s willing to make a commitment to protect political speech from “all different corners”. Zuckerberg agreed: “If there’s an imminent threat of harm, we’re going to take a conservative position on that and make sure that we flag that and understand that more broadly.
On a question if Facebook has a political bias, he said the platform’s goal was not to engage political speech. Zuckerberg said he understands the concerns, especially because “Facebook and tech industry is located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely Left-leaning place”. (IANS)

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Ankur Kalita