Facebook has set up a new ‘war room’ at its California headquarters to stop the spread of misinformation and propaganda ahead of the upcoming US elections.
On Wednesday, the social network invited reporters for a tour of the new work space. The room brings together engineers, data scientists, threat investigators and other Facebook experts.
The step to tackle a misinformation crisis has been taken ahead of the US midterm elections in November. During the 2016 US presidential elections, Facebook came under scrutiny for the use of its platform by Russian government agents to spread propaganda.
Head of Cybersecurity at Facebook Nathaniel Gleicher said that the company’s goal is to make sure that the debate around the election is authentic.
“The war room was really the culmination of two years of massive investments we’ve made both in people and technology to ensure that our platforms are safe and secure for elections,” Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s director of elections and head of civic engagement told CNN.
The war room was active in the recent Brazilian elections and removed a false story about changing the election date.
In an official statement, the social media giants said:
"This war room Brings together experts Including engineers, Including data scientists, Including threat intelligence investigators, Including operation specialists and all of 'em work together to be reliable to detect if there is any sort of late-breaking issues and respond in real time to any issues that may arise.
“We know when it comes to an elections, every moment counts,” said Samidh Chakrabarti, head of civic engagement at Facebook, who oversees the war room.
“So if there are late-breaking issues we see on the platform, we need to be able to detect and respond to them in real time, as quickly as possible.”
On one hand, the war room is just one of many conference rooms in MPK 20, the company’s Menlo Park, CA headquarters. But it’s larger than average, and has been stuffed with people and electronics equipment. There are desks for 24 people, and the room is ringed with 17 screens, each of which highlights a different stream of information Facebook is monitoring.
Employees look for suspicious spikes in spam and hate speech, in some cases using custom software built for the purpose. They look for efforts at voter suppression, such as falsely telling people that lines are long or that the election has been delayed. (The team recently uncovered one such hoax claiming that the Brazilian election date had been delayed a day due to protests, and swiftly removed the offending posts.)
Photo Credit: AFP