Russian trolls violated Facebook standards, company reveals

By Candice Choi, CNN Facebook revealed that it failed to meet its own standards for verifying posts shared by Russian-based trolls, who placed coordinated, divisive ads in the US last year. The social network…

Russian trolls violated Facebook standards, company reveals

By Candice Choi, CNN

Facebook revealed that it failed to meet its own standards for verifying posts shared by Russian-based trolls, who placed coordinated, divisive ads in the US last year.

The social network revealed that some Russian ads it believed were “illegally purchased by a Russian entity,” were not reviewed for legal compliance.

The company is now reviewing its policies for both legal and ethical compliance and has ordered its teams to come up with new procedures for determining whether a post meets the standards of its community, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post.

A Facebook team discovered 10,000 posts they believed were “created or supported by people pretending to be from Russia and then promoted to people in the United States using Facebook,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Unfortunately, when we reviewed them all, we found that some of these posts were actually from fake accounts and we don’t know who created them. As a result, we removed a total of 30 Russian pages and accounts.”

Facebook removed ads from the accounts in question as well as Pages that had been created in Russia. These pages sought to instigate social, political and religious fights among US residents, Zuckerberg said. They shared information that was “taken from many different sources, including our public policy publications and news reports,” according to the company.

Facebook said that it no longer relies on automated algorithms to review content, and instead relies on software to flag pages or accounts that violate its community standards. These “people responsible for these fake Russian accounts” will “be held accountable,” he said.

The company was called into question after reports that when Facebook started reviewing the social media posts, some of them also included instructions for raising awareness of important political and social issues in the US. These included scenes from a “Daily Show” video and a radio interview featuring author George W. Bush, as well as statements such as “don’t let the haters win” and “tune in to Democracy Now!”

Zuckerberg said that while the legal and ethical compliance didn’t meet Facebook’s standards, these pages didn’t violate its terms of service. “We don’t allow people to manipulate our platform for political purposes,” he wrote. “The person who created the posts should be held accountable, not Facebook.”

“Facebook found that these fake accounts may have reached 12 million people, and 1,063 Pages coordinated in an effort to divide US audiences,” one of the company’s head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, said in a statement.

The firm said it will notify the relevant people who were targeted by Russian groups and help them figure out if their information was shared.

These revelations raise more questions about the transparency of social media sites, and whether they can control the spread of misinformation and other violent content.

The revelation comes as Facebook grapples with its role in spreading misinformation ahead of the US presidential election last year.

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