San Francisco - Facebook’s chief security officer warned that the fake news problem
is more complicated and dangerous to solve than the public thinks.
Alex Stamos, who’s handling the company’s investigation into Russia’s
use of the social media platform ahead of the 2016 US presidential
election, cautioned about hoping for technical solutions that he says
could have unintended consequences of ideological bias.
It’s very difficult to spot fake news and propaganda using just
computer programs, Stamos said in a series of Twitter posts on Saturday.
“Nobody of substance at the big companies thinks of algorithms as
neutral,” Stamos wrote, adding that the media is simplifying the matter.
“Nobody is not aware of the risks.”
The easy technical solutions would boil down to silencing topics that
Facebook is aware are being spread by bots - which should only be done
“if you don’t worry about becoming the Ministry of Truth” with machine
learning systems “trained on your personal biases,” he said.
Stamos’s comments shed light on why Facebook added 1 000 more people
review its advertising, rather than attempting an automated solution.
The company sent a note to advertisers telling them it would start to
manually review ads targeted to people based on politics, religion,
ethnicity or social issues. The company is trying to figure out how to
monitor use of its system without censoring ideas, after the Russian
government used fake accounts to spread political discord in the US
ahead of the election.
“A lot of people aren’t thinking hard about the world they are asking
[Silicon Valley] to build,” Stamos wrote. “When the gods wish to punish
us they answer our prayers.”
Facebook has turned over more than 3 000 ads purchased by Russian
entities to congressional investigators looking into Russian influence
on the election.
Twitter has said it gave the panels a roundup of advertisements by
RT, formerly known as Russia Today, a TV network funded by the Russian
Officials from Facebook, Twitter and
Alphabet’s Google are set to
testify to Congress on the matter on November 1.
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