IT40 News for 10/18/2018

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#31 Inside Facebook’s election war room

© Facebook
Facebook’s election war room

Information war, meet the war room. Facebook on Wednesday briefed reporters on its latest efforts to uncover nefarious uses of the platform during election season, offering a tour of the large conference room where dozens of employees are monitoring events around the clock. 

“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.

© Facebook
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.)

Other employees use CrowdTangle, a company acquired by Facebook that monitors the viral spread of articles across platforms, to detect which articles are trending on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit.

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