Due to the global issue of sharing of false or misleading headlines on social media, after accusations that Russia tried to influence votes in the US, Britain and France, an allegation that Moscow has denied, Facebook has reported that it cannot offer assurance that social media is completely good for democracy, but the company has said it is trying what it can to stop alleged meddling in elections by Russia or anyone else.
Facebook, the largest social network with more than two billion users, addressed social media’s role in democracy in blog posts from a Harvard University professor, Cass Sunstein, and from an employee working on the subject.
“I wish I could guarantee that the positives are destined to outweigh the negatives, but I can’t,” Samidh Chakrabarti, a Facebook product manager, wrote in his post.
Facebook, he added, has a “moral duty to understand how these technologies are being used and what can be done to make communities like Facebook as representative, civil and trustworthy as possible”.
Contrite Facebook executives were already fanning out across Europe this week to address the company’s slow response to abuses on its platform, such as hate speech and foreign influence campaigns.
US politicians have held hearings on the role of social media in elections, and this month Facebook widened an investigation into the run-up to Britain’s 2016 referendum on EU membership.
Chakrabarti expressed Facebook’s regrets about the 2016 US elections, when according to the company Russian agents created 80,000 posts that reached around 126 million people over two years.
Sunstein, a law professor and Facebook consultant who also worked in the administration of former US President Barack Obama, said in a blog post that social media was a work in progress and companies would need to experiment with changes to improve.