Facebook Election War Room Spots Fake News, but is it Enough?

John Lister's picture

Facebook has unveiled a 'war room' to combat misinformation during election season. But it was short on detail and provoked cynicism among many reporters.

The company invited reporters to a briefing to show off the war room at it headquarters in Menlo Park, near San Francisco. The room reportedly has a capacity for 20 to 40 people drawn from 20 departments within the company.

The use of the term 'war room' isn't related to military options but instead appears to be a reference to the way political campaigns use the same term for their headquarters during a campaign. Of course, that's somewhat missing the point that much of the manipulation and bogus information appears to stem from foreign agencies rather than political parties.

Little Detail On Offer

The problem with the demonstration was that it didn't give much information about what was happening. Reporters weren't allowed to get the names of any of the people working on the project and photographers were barred from shooting some of the computer screens in the room.

What was visible included various dashboards that collate and display information on various election-related topics. For example, Facebook said one dashboard was tracking user reports of misleading posts that appeared designed to deter people from voting or mislead them about how to register. The idea was to spot spikes in such reports that could indicate a coordinated campaign of voter suppression. (Source: reuters.com)

The best conclusions anyone could draw from the demonstration is that the focus is on identifying bogus information campaigns and quickly removing the relevant content. Speed is likely the key when such fake postings are specifically designed to disrupt an upcoming election.

Face-To-Face Management

The other aim appears to be to have senior figures from different departments such as tech, legal and policy experts in one physical location so they can quickly coordinate in person and make decisions when time is precious. That doesn't really do much to promote the idea of people communicating online such as through Facebook's messaging services, however.

While some reports speak of the demonstration in glowing terms, many others are more cynical and label it a marketing stunt, arguing that it was more about looking impressive than actually improving the work to tackle interference. (Source: fortune.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Do you trust Facebook to seriously tackle the problem? Is Facebook under any obligation to tackle misleading content designed to disrupt the election and political process? Have you noticed a rise in suspicious material or dubious posts?

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Navy vet's picture

So a bunch of Trump hating, hardcore liberals are going to be arbiters of truth and fairness? Sorry, it's not happening.

Rusty's picture

At least they are defining “fake news” correctly. In Donald Trump’s bizarre mind, it has an entirely different meaning. It is very clear that the President’s very purpose in using it is to facilitate deception and divisiveness. I will add that it is also clear that Donald Trump has the emotional maturity of a child.

Navy vet's picture

But he won, after 2 years you need to get over it and move on.

Rusty's picture

It is still being investigated just how much undue influence there was in that election from real fake news. It is also being investigated to what degree the winner may have been complicit in any of that influence. Regardless, winning an election doesn’t equate to being right for the job. Holders of public office being scrutinized as they carry out their terms is standard practice. Until recently when your argument became more common, it seems like that was fairly universally considered a healthy practice too.

kitekrazy's picture

I don't look to FB for much of anything other than friends and groups. I am now going to replace the word "naive" with the word "rusty". Don't be rusty.

Rusty's picture

I actually don’t use Facebook period and never have. The lack of depth in your criticism of me says much more about you than it does me.

kitekrazy's picture

It doesn't take much literacy to see you are wrong again. Don't be so rusty.

ehowland's picture

Have never gotten info from facebook, it is a tool for talking to friends etc. Nothing else, absolutely nothing else. Anyone who thinks it is a source is "rusty".

pctyson's picture

In its most simple form, Facebook is a gossip column written by the people. It is a shame that Facebook has chosen to become the thought police. Right or wrong, freedom of speech should be protected and not trampled upon. I understand that a company does not have to honor the first amendment as they are not a government entity. However, everyone should be VERY leery of an entity that decides for itself what truth is. Why not let the users decide for themselves what posts are true and what posts are false? Is it not dangerous for Facebook to decide that its users are not intelligent enough to determine for themselves what is true and what is false? Even if the users do decide wrongly what is true or false, do they not have the basic American right to do so?