Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that his company's major focus is to protect the integrity of upcoming elections in several countries, including India, Pakistan, and the United States. To this end, the company has deployed technology tools like artificial intelligence and thousands of people to bolster security ahead of these polls in 2018, he said. Facebook has been under fire over a major data breach by UK-based data mining firm Cambridge Analytica. The user data harvested in the data leak was allegedly used to help Donald Trump win the 2016 US presidential elections.
"This is going to be a big year for elections ahead with the US midterms and elections in India, Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, Hungary and others. This is going to be a major focus for us. We now have about 15,000 people working on security and content review and we'll have more than 20,000 by the end of this year," Zuckerberg told reporters during a conference call yesterday.
He also mentioned how artificial intelligence (AI) tools were employed to keep Macedonian trolls from spreading misinformation during the US Senate Alabama special election last year. Zuckerberg earler mentioned that Facebook's AI tools had taken down 30,000 fake accounts during the last French presidential elections.
Several Indian states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are scheduled to go for polls this year and the general elections are due in a little over a year from now.
"We have more work to do here and we're going to continue working very hard to defend against them. There's the Mexican presidential election, there are big elections in India and Brazil as well as in Pakistan and Hungary and a number of other countries and the US midterms, of course," Zuckerberg said.
A day earlier, Zuckerberg said Facebook had taken big steps by taking down Russia's Internet Research Agency (IRA) pages that were targeting the US. Zuckerberg alleged that some media organisations that are sanctioned news outlets in Russia when investigated closely over time, clearly come out as organisations completely owned, controlled and operated by the IRA.
"Since we became aware of their activity after the 2016 US elections, we've been working to root out the IRA and protect the integrity of elections around the world," he said.
In German election, the company developed a new playbook for working with the local election commission to share information on threats it received, he said.
Cambridge Analytica harvested data of 5.62 lakh Indian users
In a statement on Thursday, Facebook said that data of 5.62 Facebook users in India was harvested during the data breach scandal by Cambridge Analytica. Information of up to 87 million people might have been shared improperly with the data mining firm, the social media giant said. The worst hit country according to the Facebook statement is the US, with 7.06 crore Facebook users affected in the data leak.
There are more than 20 crore Facebook users in India, making it one of the biggest markets for the social media platform. A Facebook spokesperson said that while 335 people in India were directly affected through an app installation, another 562,120 people were potentially affected as friends of those users.
"This yields a total of 562,455 potentially affected people in India, which is 0.6 per cent of the global number of potentially affected people," Facebook spokesperson added.
The company said it is "investigating" the specific number of people whose information was accessed, including those in India. Indian government has shot notices to both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, seeking their response on the data breach case. The social media company is supposed to furnish its reply by April 7.
Facebook's data breach scandal also sparked a furore in India with IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad last month warning the firm of "stringent" action for any attempt to influence polls through data theft and threatening to summon Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, if needed.
Facebook also announced a tool which allows users to see what apps they use and the information shared with them. The tool will show up at the top of the News Feed, starting April 9. The social media platform also announced several changes in plans to restrict data access on Facebook and Instagram.