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Preventing Abuse on Facebook During the 2018 US Midterm Elections, Facebook's Civic Engagement Team

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This was presented by Antonia Woodford, Monica Lee and Samidh Chakrabarti from Facebook at the Impacts of Civic Technology Conference (TICTeC 2019) in Paris on 20th March 2019. You can find out more information about the conference here: http://tictec.mysociety.org/2019

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Preventing Abuse on Facebook During the 2018 US Midterm Elections, Facebook's Civic Engagement Team

  1. 1. Preventing Abuse on Facebook During the 2018 US Midterm Elections Samidh Chakrabarti Monica Lee Antonia Woodford TICTeC March 2019
  2. 2. Credit: Patch The Election Meddling “Playbook”: 1. Create coordinated network of fake accounts & pages 2. Use ads to build up audience 3. Disseminate misinformation & other divisive content Thousands of people at FB have worked over the last two years to prevent this kind of abuse Lessons Learned from the US 2016 Election
  3. 3. The Election Meddling “Playbook”: 1. Create coordinated network of fake accounts & pages 2. Use ads to build up audience 3. Disseminate misinformation & other divisive content Thousands of people at FB have worked over the last two years to prevent this kind of abuse Out Strategy for Defending Against Election Abuse 1. Cracking Down on Inauthenticity 2. Bringing Transparency to Political Advertising 3. Reducing the Distribution of False News 4. Responding Rapidly to New Threats 5. Supporting an Informed Electorate
  4. 4. 1. Cracking Down on Inauthenticity 2. Bringing Transparency to Political Advertising 3. Reducing the Distribution of False News 4. Responding Rapidly to New Threats 5. Supporting an Informed Electorate
  5. 5. • Definition: Using deceptive tactics to make certain points of view seem more popular than they are • Why Important: Attacks values of democracy • Quality Information • Representation • Broad Participation False Amplification
  6. 6. Millions of Fake Accounts Now Blocked Each Day Major machine learning improvements to detection in 2018 • Tuned to pick up manually operated fakes • Tuned to pick up civic spammers • Increased manual review of borderline cases FakeAccountsBlocked(Millions)
  7. 7. • Easier Problem: Single fake account has limited impact • Harder Problem: Sophisticated actors using inauthentic accounts to… • Operate FB groups and pages in coordination • Distribute content into groups in coordination False Amplification through Coordinated Accounts
  8. 8. Challenge: Find Clusters of Coordinated Activity in Network
  9. 9. 1. Construct multiplex networks based on shared infrastructural, content, and behavioral signals 2. Embed multiplex graph into a multidimensional space 3. Algorithmic clustering across the embedding space Solution: Advanced Graph-based Community Detection
  10. 10. Fan-out Method Cluster 1 Cluster 2 Cluster 3 Results: Clusters Are Now More Internally Consistent
  11. 11. Combating Information Operations Automated Detection Leads Lessons Security Expert Investigation
  12. 12. Accelerating Progress in Taking Down Info Ops July 2018 Aug 2018 Removed 652 FB Pages, Groups and accounts from IR Removed 32 FB Pages and accounts 6 months Oct 2018 Nov 2018 Dec 2018 Jan 2019 Feb 2019 Removed 141 FB & IG Pages and accounts linked to foreign entities Removed 15 Pages and accounts from BD Removed 1510 FB & IG Pages, Groups and accounts from PH, RU, and UK, and IR Removed 205 FB & IG Pages and accounts from MD Removed 1137 FB Pages, Groups and accounts from BR, PH, and IR 6 months
  13. 13. 1. Cracking Down on Inauthenticity 2. Bringing Transparency to Political Advertising 3. Reducing the Distribution of False News 4. Responding Rapidly to New Threats 5. Supporting an Informed Electorate
  14. 14. Political Advertisers Must Verify Their Identity & Location India This process routinely blocks foreign actors from running political ads
  15. 15. Political Advertisers Must Disclose Who Paid For Ads So far, delivered billions of political ad impressions with transparency
  16. 16. All Political Ads Are Publicly Searchable in a 7yr Archive So far, ~3M political ads are available in the US archive (try the API!)
  17. 17. • How to define what should be considered a ‘political’ ad without being overly broad? • How to extend protection globally while adapting to each country’s systems? • How, if at all, to handle funders who are opaque entities (e.g., LLCs in US)? Our Work is Not Over and We’re Tackling Tough Questions
  18. 18. 1. Cracking Down on Inauthenticity 2. Bringing Transparency to Political Advertising 3. Reducing the Distribution of False News 4. Responding Rapidly to New Threats 5. Supporting an Informed Electorate
  19. 19. …content that violates Community Standards …distribution of false news and inauthentic content …people with more context about what they see Our Framework for Fighting Misinformation
  20. 20. • We work with 3rd party fact-checkers around the world to evaluate and rate content • When a post is rated false by a 3rd party fact-checker, we show it lower in News Feed • This lowers the likelihood people see it, on average reducing future views by over 80% We REDUCE the spread of stories debunked by fact checkers
  21. 21. Related Articles Sharing Interstitials Context Button We INFORM people when they encounter hoaxes
  22. 22. We REMOVE content that violates our Community Standards SpamFake Accounts Coordinating Harm (e.g., Voter Suppression)
  23. 23. 1. Expanded our policies to prohibit these new kinds of voter suppression 2. Launched user reporting flows for incorrect voting information and worked with trusted partners (including election officials) to identify and respond to new threats 3. Built technical systems to detect, review, and enforce on violations Proactively Preventing Voter Suppression in 2018 Voter misinformation from 2016 How we prevented this in 2018
  24. 24. Expanded Voter Suppression Policies Broadened Policies in Sept 2018
  25. 25. • Launched a new reporting label so users could flag incorrect voting information more easily in the weeks leading up to election day • Established channels for government officials (e.g. secretaries of state, state election officials) and select 3rd party civil rights orgs to flag violating content New Reporting Channels for Voter Suppression
  26. 26. • Set up end-to-end systems to identify, review, and enforce against voter suppression • Created custom models to detect common violating content • Escalated grey area content to 3rd party fact checkers for quick review Automated detection Trusted partner reports FB Review Fact-checker review ignore remove escalate User reports Our Technical System for Preventing Voter Suppression
  27. 27. We Removed ~45K Instances of Voter Suppression Content Before They Could Go Viral (90% Before Any Reports) Misrepresentation of Voting Dates Misrepresentation of Voting Places & Times Misrepresentation of Methods for Voting Misrepresentation of CNN Logo Misrepresentation of ICE Logo
  28. 28. The Associated Press debunked a video alleging that voting machines in Ohio were rigged to automatically vote for only one of the candidates Fact-checkers also debunked claims about New Black Panther Party taking to the streets of Atlanta to intimidate voters and showing up armed at the polls Fact Checkers Helped Debunk Hoaxes at the Local Level
  29. 29. • Quickly Verifying Personal Anecdotes & Local Claims • Example: “I tried this voting machine and it didn’t work!” • Addressing More Subtle Forms of Voter Intimidation • Example: Attempts to convince people that voting doesn’t matter • Scaling Systems Across Countries • Variations in voting systems lead to unique types of voter suppression Many Complex Challenges With Unclear Solutions Remain Brazil: Incorrect Candidate Voting Number Nigeria: Misrepresenting If a Vote Will Count
  30. 30. 1. Cracking Down on Inauthenticity 2. Bringing Transparency to Political Advertising 3. Reducing the Distribution of False News 4. Responding Rapidly to New Threats 5. Supporting an Informed Electorate
  31. 31. “War Room” Enabled Rapid Response to Emerging Threats Detection Decision Action
  32. 32. Illustrative Example: Stopping Pop-Up Foreign Spammers Detection Decision Action 11:02am • Links to UtahNews74.site first start getting shared on FB 11:24am • Automated system triggers alert for War Room due to unusual activity in a Utah congressional district • Content is political and country of origin doesn’t match country of viewers 11:28am • Crew leader triages alert and assigns to a data scientist 11:47am • Investigation confirms that site is an Ad Farm and that sharers are hiding a Bangladeshi origin 11:52am • Cross-functional team confirms this violates our policies 11:58am • Operations specialist removes all violating activity from FB 12:04pm • Engineering team takes lessons and starts fine-tuning detection for future actions Note: This is a composite example intended to illustrate the workflow of the war room. Specific details have been changed to protect PII.
  33. 33. War Room Resolved Over 900 Issues During the US Midterms Detection Decision Action x 900 Issues
  34. 34. 1. Cracking Down on Inauthenticity 2. Bringing Transparency to Political Advertising 3. Reducing the Distribution of False News 4. Responding Rapidly to New Threats 5. Supporting an Informed Electorate
  35. 35. Civic Features Helped People Through the Voter Journey P2P Registration Drives Video Ballot Guide Election Reminders
  36. 36. Instagram Reimagined “I Voted” Stickers as GOTV Stories
  37. 37. 1. Cracking Down on Inauthenticity 2. Bringing Transparency to Political Advertising 3. Reducing the Distribution of False News 4. Responding Rapidly to New Threats 5. Supporting an Informed Electorate
  38. 38. We still believe that a more connected world can be a more civic world, too
  39. 39. Thank You! Questions? Monica Lee monicalee@fb.com Samidh Chakrabarti @samidh Antonia Woodford awoodford@fb.com

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