Facebook chief vows to protect integrity of elections in Pakistan, other countries

Mark Zuckerberg tells Congress committee 2018 an important year for elections around the world


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that 2018 is an incredibly important year for elections, not just with the US midterms, but around the world.

"There are important elections in India, in Brazil, in Mexico, in Pakistan, and in Hungary. And we want to make sure we do everything we can to protect the integrity of those elections," he said while testifying before a joint hearing of the US Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committees on a range of issues from Facebook’s handling of alleged Russian attempts at election interference to consumer privacy and hate speech.

Facebook faces a growing crisis of confidence among users, advertisers, employees and investors after acknowledging that up to 87 million people, mostly in the United States, had personal information harvested from the site by Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy that has counted US President Donald Trump’s election campaign among its clients.

General elections in Pakistan are due late July, as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government completes its tenure on May 31 after taking power in 2013.  

Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in his Harvard University dorm room in 2004, is fighting to prove to critics that he is the right person to go on leading what has grown into one of the world’s largest companies.

The 33-year-old internet mogul informed congress that the company has new artificial intelligence tools to identify fake accounts, and plans to hire 20,000 people to work on security and content review by the end of this year. 

It also promises to verify every entity running political ads.

“I have more confidence we’ll get this right because since the 2016 election, there have been several important elections around the world where we’ve had a better track record,” Zuckerberg said, referring to elections in France, Germany, and the special senate race in the US state of Alabama last year. 

“Between those three elections, we were able to proactively remove tens of thousands of accounts before they could contribute significant harm.”

But bad actors are also getting more sophisticated. “This is an arms race,” Zuckerberg said, referring to Russia. “They are going to keep on getting better at this and we need to invest at getting better at this, too.” 

One example Zuckerberg offered to combat advertisers abusing the platform is to mail codes to physical addresses on file if it detects anomalies like if a Russian source provides a US address that seems unlikely. Without the code, advertisers won’t be able to publish on Facebook.