The Democratic National Committee told Facebook it found several networks of foreign-based accounts targeting American users with fake news, raising concerns about the platform’s ability to counter political disinformation as the 2020 presidential election approaches.
“Over the past nine months, our team has uncovered and reported at least nine foreign, inauthentic account networks targeting Americans with anti-Democratic false news content,” Seema Nanda, the DNC’s chief executive officer, wrote in a letter addressed to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer.
“All of these networks appear to have been commercially motivated — manipulating Americans on Facebook’s platform in order to drive web traffic, and thus ad revenue,” Ms. Nanda wrote in the letter, according to a copy seen by The Washington Times. “Despite their non-political intentions, these actors have the effect of warping the political perceptions of American voters and hurting Democratic candidates’ electoral chances.”
“It’s concerning that we’re able to uncover these terms-of-service-violating operations on a fairly regular basis, with a team far smaller than Facebook’s,” Ms. Nanda’s letter continued. “Considering Facebook’s enormous financial resources and the stakes of the upcoming elections, we’d ask that you dedicate additional capacity to enforce your terms of service against these types of malicious actors.”
Facebook touted the company’s efforts to prevent abuse when reached for comment.
“We have teams that work around the clock to find and remove abuse, and in the past year alone we’ve taken down more than 50 malicious networks, some of which included hundreds of accounts, pages and groups,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Washington Times. “External partners are critical to this work, and that is why we have invested in tools that provide more transparency and trainings to further enable this information-sharing.”
Politically-charged fake news spread wildly on social networking services leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and several internet platforms have subsequently taken measures intended to prevent their services from being similarly weaponized by bad actors attempting to influence voters.
Several front-runners among Democrats seeking the nomination to run against President Trump in 2020 have since questioned whether Facebook has learned since the 2016 race, however. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, and Bill Russo, a campaign director for former Vice President and fellow White House hopeful Joseph R. Biden, both said recently that they believe Facebook is “unprepared” for the next election.