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“Security is not a problem that can be solved completely”: the most important testimony of Mark Zuckerberg to the US Congress

Mark Zuckerberg before the speech in the US Congress. Photo by Alex Wong, Getty Images

On April 9, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testified to members of the US Congress. Particular interest in the work of Zuckerberg arose in the American legislators after several scandals around Facebook, related to the safety of personal data of Americans and their use for political purposes.

TJ chose the most important of Zuckerberg’s speeches in Congress. The full transcript of his speech is published on the website of the House of Representatives.

Zuckerberg considers the scandals around Facebook his own mistake

At the beginning of his speech, Zuckerberg called Facebook “an idealistic and optimistic” company that helped organize opponents of sexual violence or violence using firearms. At the same time, according to Zuckerberg, Facebook has not done enough to ensure that these same tools are not used to the detriment.

We did not see the scope of our responsibility, and it was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I launched Facebook, I manage it and I am responsible for what is happening here.

Mark Zuckerberg
founder of Facebook

The head of Facebook added that he considers the company’s responsibility for the use of its tools for good purposes to be universal. In the zone of this responsibility, he included not only overseeing what data users are transferring to developers, but also protecting these data.

Facebook will severely restrict the exchange of data with third-party applications

The first problem, which appealed Zuckerberg, was a scandal around the research agency Cambridge Analytica. According to the founder of Facebook, in 2014, the administration of the social network has already limited the amount of information that third-party applications could receive from users – but this allegedly was not enough.

Now third-party applications connecting to Facebook accounts will be able to receive only the user’s name, e-mail and photo. To access records in a profile or other private information, developers will now not only have to undergo pre-moderation, but also sign a contract with strict restrictions.

Facebook management has also limited a number of social networking tools, for example, disabled the function of searching users by phone number or e-mail address. It will be more difficult for applications to access any activities that can give out data to other people – for example, to communities and activities.

Starting with the week in which Zuckerberg spoke in Congress, Facebook included in the privacy settings a list of applications that the user connected to his account. According to the head of the social network, now this information will appear in the newsline as well – to make sure that all users see it.

Facebook introduced a new artificial intelligence to combat cyberthreats from Russia

Zuckerberg said that his team for many years knew about the existence of “Russian cyberthreats.” On the eve of the presidential elections in 2016, the social network management detected the activity of the hacker group APT28, better known as Fancy Bear – American intelligence agencies link it to Russian military intelligence.

The head of Facebook also mentioned the Internet Research Agency (IRA), associated with the Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as the “Chef of Putin.” According to Zuckerberg, on the eve of the presidential election in 2016, the coverage of 200,000 publications from IRA fake accounts in Facebook and Instagram amounted to about 146 million people.

Zuckerberg noted that although Facebook was aware of Russian cyberthreats, the social network leaders struggled with them very slowly, and now they are trying hard to improve – for example, by launching an artificial intelligence that allows tracking and deleting fake accounts that have already been tested in several elections in France, Germany and the USA.

Last week, we deactivated over 270 pages and accounts managed by the Internet Research Agency. They were used to attract the attention of Russians and Russian-speaking residents in countries such as Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

Some of the removed pages belonged to Russian news organizations, which we defined as Internet research controlled by the Agency.

Mark Zuckerberg
founder of Facebook

Zuckerberg promised that Facebook would change the rules for placing political advertising: for its placement, the advertiser will need to confirm his identity, and each advertisement will contain a postscript about who paid for it. At the same time, users will be able to see what other publications the advertiser placed.

Even the authors of popular pages will have to confirm their identity – so that they can not be used to distribute fake or discordant information. To verify everything, this array of Facebook data will significantly increase its staff of people responsible for security and moderation – from 15 to 20 thousand people.

Security – including during elections – is not a problem that can be solved completely. Organizations like the Internet Research Agency are sophisticated opponents that are constantly evolving.

But we will continue to improve in order to stay ahead. We will also continue to create tools that will allow more people to be heard in the democratic process.

Mark Zuckerberg
founder of Facebook
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