Facebook vice-president of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson said political advertisements linked to the Russian government on Facebook during the US election had no place on the social media platform.
Rooting out the problems of fake news and advertising is a difficult task because of the nature of Facebook, which has no desire to be a public censor. Ms Everson said the ads should have been prohibited due to the shadiness of the characters behind them, not the ads themselves.
“I think we’re learning and improving, but the content in those ads, had they been from a proper organisation that was established and we understood who that organisation was, many of those ads would have been allowed to run whether or not we agree with the positions or not, it does not matter,” Ms Everson told The Australian Financial Review.
“Because if you take voice and expression away from one you take it away from everyone and the platform has been a platform and will continue to be a platform of freedom of speech and expression. So that’s really important.”
Facebook is due to come before the US Congress this week as American lawmakers investigate Russian influence in the 2016 election surprisingly won by Donald Trump.
Ms Everson said Facebook had done a better job of making sure any ads from fake accounts manipulated by bad actors, such as those connected to the Russian government in the US election, were being picked up, citing improvements during the French and German elections.
Over the weekend Facebook announced tweaks to its advertising formats which will require ads to have a “paid for” link which shows information about who funded the ads. Now users can also see what other ads the funder has bought.
It’s a mammoth task in a sea of content spreading over Facebook. Self-reporting from users is one tool, said Ms Everson, but there are a number of others the company is turning to.
“We’ve added now over 4000 people just since February around not only looking at content, but also looking at inauthentic and bad actors on the ad side as well. So big investment, human resource investment. But, again people can’t solve this problem on their own,” she said.
“The third bucket is around machine learning and really accelerating our efforts around photo identification, visual identification of areas that we know are problematic. We’re working very closely with experts and sharing information across the industry, with other technology companies, so that if someone is seeing nefarious behaviour we can share that and identify it and hopefully get rid of it much more quickly. So a lot of industry outreach with our peer companies which I think has been really positive.”
Ms Everson was in Australia last week meeting Facebook’s advertising clients and marketers to show the social media giant is addressing its recent issues and is being more transparent, a concern for the industry globally.
Facebook has 24 third-party verification partners checking its audience and ad metrics, including Moat and Comscore, she said.
”There’s no more grading our own homework,” Ms Everson said.