Facebook Opening a ‘War Room’ to Combat Election Interference

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After coming under intense scrutiny for its role in harboring “fake news,” Facebook is taking a proactive approach to reducing the amount of misinformation found on its site. A new room is being constructed in the heart of Facebook’s campus that will aim to reduce election propaganda for the upcoming midterm elections.

As reported by Sheera Frenkel and Mike Isaac of The New York Times, the room is under construction with a small paper sign emblazoned with orange lettering designating it as the “War Room.” Along the walls, dozens of televisions will display major news networks 24/7, while blue cords hang from the ceiling, eventually to be connected to window-size computer monitors.

The War Room is set to open next week, as hundreds of employees involved with it work around the clock to get the room up and running. The core team of the “War Room”, however, will be much smaller, housing 20 or so dedicated individuals who will focus on rooting out disinformation, and deleting fake accounts created to spread false news and sway public opinion during the upcoming elections.

In July, Facebook discovered a campaign that used dozens of Facebook pages, along with nearly $11,000 worth of ads to promote political causes. Last month, the company took steps to remove nearly 600 inauthentic pages associated with ties to Iran and Russia that had been linked to “coordinated manipulation campaigns.”

Samidh Chakrabarti, head of civic engagement at Facebook, told the Times, “We see this as probably the biggest company wide orientation since our shift from desktops to mobile phones.” He also showed off a new tool Facebook will be using to help the War Room team identify misinformation in real-time as it goes viral among Facebook users.

Chakrabarti says, “This is a huge cross-company effort that requires people of many different disciplines coming together to solve these kinds of problems.”  He mentions that Facebook has added 10,000 people to its security team, stating we have to be ready for anything … that’s why we’ve been building this war room, a physical war room … So, as we discover problems that may come up in the hours leading up to the election, we can take quick and decisive action.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he is confident that the company is much more prepared to deal with campaigns designed to cause political interference and manipulation. In a blog post published last week, Zuckerberg said: “In 2016, we were not prepared for the coordinated information operations we now regularly face.” He adds, “But we have learned a lot since then and have developed sophisticated systems that combine technology and people to prevent election interference on our services.”

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