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Zuckerberg: Facebook Getting Better at Spotting Questionable Activity, 'Putting Barriers in Place'

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to meet France's President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on May 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday that with each election subjected to cyber-influence campaigns “we get better at identifying this kind of activity upfront and putting barriers in place to those who would try to abuse these systems.”

Zuckerberg and other Facebook officials were discussing the company’s removal of 652 pages, groups and accounts on the social media site and on Instagram “for coordinated inauthentic behavior” traced back to Iran and Russia.

“Thanks to advances in AI, we’re now much more proactive in finding and removing bad content, as well as fake accounts,” the CEO said. “In the past few months, we’ve been able to proactively identify and remove inauthentic accounts, pages and groups coming from countries including Russia, Mexico and Brazil. And we’re working more closely with outside experts, governments, and other companies to prevent interference during elections. And this last part is critical, since no one company can win this fight on its own.”

Zuckerberg said there’s a “tension” in such investigations because if pages and accounts are removed too soon “it’s harder to understand their playbook and the extent of their network, and it can also make it harder for law enforcement, who are running their own investigations, as well.”

“Security is not something that you ever fully solve,” he added. “Our adversaries are sophisticated and well-funded, and we have to constantly keep improving to stay ahead. But the shift we’ve made from reactive to proactive detection is a big change and it’s going to make Facebook safer for everyone over time.”

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey are expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Sept. 5 about Russian interference operations in upcoming elections.

Zuckerberg said his company is “trying to communicate overall and not just through testimony… all of the steps that we’re taking to secure the integrity of elections on Facebook.”

“We now have 20,000 people working on security and content review, implementing ads transparency to a higher standard than what’s even on TV or print media today, verifying advertisers running political and issue oriented ads, working on deeper partnerships with law enforcement and government and other companies to be able to do signal sharing,” he noted.

He added that since the 2016 U.S. presidential election “there was the French election, the German election, the Alabama special election, the Mexican election — and in each of these elections, our systems have been able to find a lot of fake accounts that were attempting potentially to do bad things on the system.”

“We get that 2018 is a very important election year — not only with the midterms here in the U.S. — but also the Mexican election that just happened, the Brazilian election, leading into EU elections coming up, the Indian elections in early next year,” Zuckerberg said. “So this is really serious.”

“This is a top priority for our company. We’re taking a lot of steps to be able to make sure that we do what we need to here. And I think that this investigation and what the four investigations here and what we found is just one more step in terms of the efforts that our team has taken to be able to find and remove this kind of bad content and add more hurdles in place to prevent this from happening.”