Facebook is working with Mueller, Zuckerberg tells Congress

WASHINGTON, Gretel Johnston and Peter Voskamp (dpa)- Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday said the company is working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, while pledging to invest more into stopping such foreign intervention.
"This is an arms race," the social media giant's co-founder and chief executive said in testimony to a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

"They're going to keep on getting better at this," Zuckerberg added.
Facebook plans to have more than 20,000 staff working in security and content review by the end of the year to help counter the threat of those trying to exploit the platform's security measures, he said.
Zuckerberg offered few details about Facebook's cooperation with Mueller. He said he himself had not been interviewed by the special counsel, but acknowledged that "I know we're working with them."
Zuckerberg was making his first appearance before Congress as his company has come under fire in regard to a data privacy scandal and the abuse of the social media platform by Russian groups to interfere in elections.
The 33-year-old took pains to explain to the committees how research firm Cambridge Analytica improperly gained access to the personal information of as many as 87 million Facebook users and how fake accounts created by Russians were used to interfere in the election.
In his opening remarks, Zuckerman apologized, saying that Facebook was "too slow to spot and respond to Russian interference" and outline several moves it is taking to address the problem.
To prevent another data exposure like the one that allegedly occurred with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has said it has already dramatically restricts the amount of data that developers can access and proactively reviews the apps on its platform.
Cambridge Analytica allegedly improperly accessed the data through a third-party quiz app, and a whistle-blower says the company used the information to build psychological profiles in an effort to target voters with political ads.
Zuckerberg testified that when Facebook learned Cambridge Analytica had bought the data in 2015 "we took down the app, and we demanded that both the app developer and Cambridge Analytica delete and stop using any data that they had. They told us that they did this .... In retrospect, that was clearly a mistake."
There is a lot at stake for Facebook. Several members of Congress have expressed their dismay over Facebook's actions or lack of action.
Among the possible outcomes of the testimony are new regulations on data protections that could restrict Facebook's ability to make money.
Zuckerberg faced questions about whether the company broke a consent decree Facebook signed seven years ago with the US Federal Trade Commission promising it would not share people's personal data without permission from users.
One senator, Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida, suggested to Zuckerberg that if Facebook and other social media companies "do not get your act in order none of us are going have any privacy anymore."
In response to other questions, Zuckerberg explained that policing hate speech is quite challenging and essentially reactive given current technology and the "sheer volume of content" moving through the platform in a variety of languages.
However, he said Facebook is developing artificial intelligence technology in order for such language to be "flagged upfront" in five or 10 years.
Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, suggested that users signing up for Facebook "have no earthly idea what they're signing up for" in terms of how their data is used.
The Facebook head pushed back on this, saying that he hoped that "what we do with data is not surprising to people."
"We do not sell data to advertisers," Zuckerberg said, calling it a "common misperception."
He said that the current episode has taught him that Facebook needs "to take a more active role in policing the ecosystem ...."
He added that he was "committed to getting this right."
Facebook also says it is making it easier to understand which apps users allow to access their data by showing everyone a list of the apps they've used and giving them an easy way to revoke their permission to access user data.
Among the actions it has taken to stop Russian meddling are the disabling of thousands of accounts tied to organized, financially motivated "fake news spammers" and taking down pages and accounts operated by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian outfit that has tried to manipulate voters in the United States, Europe and Russia.
Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear Wednesday at 10 am before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Wednesday, April 11th 2018
Gretel Johnston and Peter Voskamp (dpa)

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