Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) just got punched in its gut by one of their former employees turned whistleblower. It seems like the social media behemoth hasn’t really been able to fight off disinformation in the relatively smaller countries when compared to its efforts in its home country United States.
A media report on Monday brought to notice a 6,600-word memo written by a former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang wherein it showed that that the social media giant has been slow as a snail when it comes to dealing with fake accounts which have affected elections around the world.
Zhang’s primary day-to-day activity in the company was to monitor and root out inauthentic activities such as cohorts of fake accounts trying to push a similar pattern of content in order to affect people’s decision making when it came to political beliefs.
In the memo, she mentions how she reached out to other executives about the same but they were extremely slow to react to her repeated warning bells.
Sophie Zhang spent three years at Facebook before being fired this year in August. Within that time period, she claimed to have spotted many flagrant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse Facebook on an enormous scale so that they could manipulate their own citizens.
Zhang’s memo highlights the efforts of smaller countries specifically. She mentions how many bigwigs who have direct/indirect political agenda in these countries employ cheap and easily accessible bot networks to influence key decisions that are supposed to be taken by citizens.
According to her, Honduras is one such example of a small country which did so as their president used bots to be promoted. She also penned down how they attacked their opposition figures in Azerbaijan in a similar way as well.
Now, Facebook, after taking note of this memo, in a statement, replied that they are working towards taking down inauthentic behaviour on their platform.
Liz Bourgeois who is a Facebook spokeswoman said that the company does acknowledge the revelations made in Sophie’s notes and promises to investigate each issue carefully before they take action or go out making public claims as a company.
As to why Zhang was fired, no insight was received from Facebook’s end. But, Zhang herself speculates it was because she started focusing too much on the politically motivated inauthentic behaviour patterns which no one would seem to pay heed to at the company.
She mentions in her memo how she found and took down attacks of similar sorts from South Korea to India, from Afghanistan to Mexico and countless more nations.
“I found and took down attacks of this sort worldwide — from South Korea to India, from Afghanistan to Mexico, from Brazil to Taiwan, and countless other nations,” wrote Zhang.
She also wrote: “I have personally made decisions that affected national presidents without oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians globally that I’ve lost count.” but when enquired about that further, she didn’t respond back.
According to her, she was considered a ‘low-level employee’ and this is why no matter to whose attention she brought this issue to, everyone chose to drag their feet when it came to taking action. She claimed both the social media behemoth’s policy and legal teams stonewalled her many times.
Facebook, as of late, had begun to become more transparent with how they are managing the fight against disinformation. For instance, a few months ago they revealed how they were using an artificial intelligence tool known as DEC aka Deep Entity Classification in order to battle the growing epidemic of fake account creation.
But now that Zhang’s memo has blown the whistle on how things operate internally at the company, it seems like Facebook was only offering a sneak peek into what they could accomplish so that they receive some positive PR and wash their hands off the Cambridge Analytica incident.
Just a few months ago we wrote a thought-provoking analysis on Facebook fight against fake accounts that will last forever.
How Facebook is going to publicly respond to this new debacle is anybody’s guess right now. However, if there’s one thing clear, it’s the fact that the social media giant is going to be subjected to a lot of bad press in the near future once again.
What do you think how transparent Facebook is when it comes to fighting against fake accounts and data security? Do let us know your views in the comment section below.