With Parliamentary elections happening in Europe later this month, Facebook has established a war room to combat misinformation and more on the platform. As both The Guardian and The New York Times have noted, the targets of the war room are misinformation, fake accounts, and election interference that violates the site’s rules.
This war room, as has been noted, is similar to a few that the social media platform in the past. These were targeting misinformation and other social media interference in several different elections, including:
- A war room for the United States’ 2018 mid-term elections & elections in Brazil. These were started in October 2018 before closing in November, after the elections were finished.
- A similar war room that was established in Dehli ahead of India’s elections.
Facebook’s European War Room
The war room focused on the European Parliamentary elections is based in Dublin, Ireland; the site has long been the social media giant’s European headquarters. Facebook will be running this war room – as many have refered to it – throughout the elections; the voting process will run between May 23 and 26. The staff manning the center are native speakers in each of Europe’s 24 major languages, with about 40 people working there full-time.
While Facebook claimed that reviews material that is flagged by its automated systems or by users, they haven’t suggested what measures have been taken outside of that. The Guardian noted that the company hasn’t been entirely successful with these war rooms in the past. Take Spain, for example. While the group was focused on removing bad actors, it missed a notable few.
Ahead of national elections in the country, Facebook removed a group with 1.7 million followers mere days before the election. The effect that the far-right group had on the election is difficult to measure. However, critics note it took longer than it should have to remove the group.
This isn’t the only effort the company is taking to combat bad actors; it banned the accounts of far-right activist Alex Jones, Milo Yiannpolous and several others recently. Jones and more then criticized the company for doing so; President Donald Trump tweeted extensively about the issue. There was backlash against the move from alt-right and far-right activists on Twitter (or those who still have accounts, at least).
Fake News’ Impact On Elections
The impact of “fake news” on elections is something Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg dismissed for several years. He dismissed the idea as “crazy” after the 2016 election for President of the United States. The impact, however, is something that’s been highlighted consistently since then. This is something that the company is trying to learn from.
The ‘war rooms’ that are being set up are certainly a step in the right direction. Whether or not they’ll be effective is something only time will tell. It should be seen as a stepping stone to minimizing and, hopefully, getting fake news off of the platforms in the future.