Zuckerberg does not want a repetition of the story with “Russian influence”, but his move does not seem to be convincing enough for journalists.
Facebook allowed journalists from several American publications to the first “operational headquarters” (“war room”, war room), created to fight against interference in political processes through a social network. The unusual department consists of 20 people and is located at the company’s headquarters in California.
None of the other large IT companies have created such a division, or in any case, have not yet shown it. For example, Twitter or YouTube do not have “military headquarters”, although they are also struggling with the consequences of interfering in American elections — for example, they delete suspicious accounts. However, Instagram and WhatsApp employees who belong to Facebook are represented in this headquarters.
“Our job is to detect anyone who tries to manipulate public opinion. Find and remove, ” says Nathaniel Glacier, head of the cybersecurity department for Facebook, who used to work for the White House.
Why did Facebook need such a headquarters?
Mark Zuckerberg wants to avoid repeating the situation around the 2016 presidential election
Facebook has repeatedly been accused of misinformation and the spread of fake news. According to the company’s internal data , during those elections “related to the interests of Russia” records were seen by 126 million American voters. This is 40% of the population. “We too late noticed Russian intervention and with all our strength we strive to become better,” Zuckerberg noted before speaking at a congress.
November 6 in the US midterm elections will be held
Judging by the mood of Facebook, the company considers the current election campaign as one of the first serious checks after the scandal with the possible intervention of Russia in American politics.
Facebook continues to deal with many major scandals.
The last scandal occurred in Brazil, where the first round of general elections took place on October 7 and the second round of presidential elections on October 28. Against this background, Brazilian media reported that local marketing companies purchased many SIM cards and launched anti-American propaganda on WhatsApp, the country’s most popular messenger.
What does the “military headquarters” of Facebook look like and what do its employees do
— Bloomberg (@business) October 18, 2018
For the time being, the operational headquarters is open from four in the morning until midnight, but after October 22 it will begin to work around the clock. Employees are divided into seven categories:
- Developers who are responsible for dashboards. They show political content, “hate speech” (hate speech), user complaints about fake news and other anomalies;
- Analytics experts. For example, if Facebook finds traces of interference, they understand what it is connected with and who is behind it;
- Specialists who determine if Facebook’s internal rules have been violated. If yes, then they delete the accounts of the perpetrators and the corresponding content;
- Lawyers checking Facebook entries for compliance with laws;
- Experts in the field of cybersecurity, who have experience in “deciphering complex tactics” of various kinds of attacks on Facebook, including from the government;
- Representatives from Instagram and WhatsApp, who share information with Facebook and monitor the situation in the applications;
- Local experts. Since Facebook is now starting to work on “election defense” 1.5-2 years before they are held, the company collects information about a particular country in advance. For example, about cultural norms or specific painful reactions of this or that people.
What else did the journalists who visited the “military headquarters” notice
Facebook invited American journalists to the “war room” at the same time, allowing the release of materials under the embargo – at the same time. After the tour, the correspondents as a whole were cautious about the innovation of the social network.
“It is not clear how effective this works,” wrote The Guardian. “It would be great if everything worked exactly as Facebook promised to journalists,” said Wired. TechCrunch called the company’s headquarters “the first line of defense of democracy.”
Facebook has been showing off its “election war room.” Here’s what it looks like. pic.twitter.com/8ppbjmWu0Z
— John Paczkowski (@JohnPaczkowski) October 18, 2018
Some screens can not be photographed and published, and the names of the war room employees should not be mentioned in the materials.
Outside, the “war room” of Facebook seems like one of the typical conference rooms at the company’s headquarters. However, what’s inside — open space, flags, watches, television, posters, a blue-and-white logo everywhere — indicates that this is not an ordinary conference room.
This room is like a Wall Street trading office, with screens on all the walls and every desk. And for 20 hours a day, and soon for 24, about two dozen geeks, bloodhounds, geeks, hackers and lawyers are stuck here, trying to identify the next bad thing that happens on the social network.
During a conversation with journalists, Facebook representatives did not give a satisfactory answer to the question of how exactly the headquarters is going to deal with fake news and misinformation. Instead, the company pointed to minimal cosmetic changes. For example, adding a “Forwarded” button (“redirected”) to show when the source of a message is not the sender.
Journalists of Gizmodo, who this time did not visit Facebook headquarters, in their own way appreciated the campaign of journalists to the company’s “operational headquarters”.
The share price of Facebook falls largely due to the scandal in the last election, which the company really ******** [spoiled]. Facebook wants to avoid even worse headlines and tries to look as transparent as possible.
So did this whole gang of journalists learn anything concrete about operations in the “war room”? The “headquarters” may or may not do its job, but Facebook PR people are exactly on fire.