Apparently Facebook thinks it’s the US military, or a NATO command center, or perhaps its millennial employees want to relive the 1980’s cult classic “WarGames” movie.
Facebook announced Wednesday that it plans to set up a “war room” at its Silicon Valley campus to prevent potential foreign election meddling during the midterms.
“We are setting up a war room in Menlo Park for the Brazil and US elections,” Facebook elections and civic engagement director Samidh Chakrabarti said, according to the AFP. He added, “It is going to serve as a command center so we can make real-time decisions as needed.”
A “command center” in a “war room” to make “real-time” decisions huh?… And oh Facebook says it will gain help from artificial intelligence software to prevent fake posts by those pesky Russians to boot…
Apparently office space for the planned anti-election meddling HQ has already been set aside as Facebook says it’s still in the procession of “building” this war room.
But the AFP reports this incredibly amusing detail:
He declined to say when the “war room” — currently a conference room with a paper sign taped to the door — would be in operation.
Teams at Facebook have been honing responses to potential scenarios such as floods of bogus news or campaigns to trick people into falsely thinking they can cast ballots by text message, according to executives.
Don’t worry America your elections are safe with Facebook on watch at the forward operating post! Though likely a conference room with paper taped to the door won’t exactly convey confidence and readiness to the American public.
“Preventing election interference on Facebook has been one of the biggest cross-team efforts the company has seen,” Chakrabarti continued.
The new initiative follows chief executive Mark Zuckerberg pledging that Facebook wouldn’t allow the type of “voter manipulation” that he says occurred ahead of the 2016 election of Donald Trump, for which he admitted his company was “ill-prepared”.
“We’ve identified and removed fake accounts ahead of elections in France, Germany, Alabama, Mexico and Brazil,” Zuckerberg said in a written statement posted to Facebook last week.
“We’ve found and taken down foreign influence campaigns from Russia and Iran attempting to interfere in the US, UK, Middle East, and elsewhere — as well as groups in Mexico and Brazil that have been active in their own country” Zuckerberg continued.
He said that “today, Facebook is better prepared for these kinds of attacks” — though it’s unclear if the newly unveiled war room… or rather a conference room with a paper sign that says “war room” on it is part of the grand preparedness initiative.
In July Facebook announced it had identified a “coordinated political influence campaign,” comprised of “dozens of inauthentic accounts and pages that are believed to be engaging in political activity ahead of November’s midterm elections.”
And previously in February, following the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and two businesses for election meddling (one of which had shown up in US court to fight), Facebook VP of advertising, Rob Goldman pointed out that the majority of advertising purchased by Russians on Facebook occurred after the election — and was designed to “sow discord and divide Americans”, something which Americans have been quite adept at doing on their own.
Early this year The New York Times reported that in order to combat the “discord” allegedly sewn by Russians, most of which happened after the election, Facebook hired a fleet of people to review content, added to its security team, and hired counterterrorism experts and recruited workers with government security clearances.
It appears the “war room” is part of this coordinated effort, which further includes partnership with an actual NATO-funded entity: the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFR Lab), which is to assist Facebook in providing “geopolitical expertise” and help in flagging posts which could have a malevolent foreign power behind them.
All of this should translate into very real concern for the potential of political censorship of American citizens in the name of protecting against foreign election meddling.
One Facebook news feed spokesman told the AFP, “We are working hard to amplify the good and mitigate the bad.” And they’ll apparently do that with the help of A.I. from a centralized “command center”… what could go wrong?