MUNICH — Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said Saturday the company is getting better at fighting new security threats that ravage its social media platform.
“The security landscape is no longer one of traditional hacking. It’s now one of disinformation,” Zuckerberg told the Munich Security Conference, a high-powered annual gathering of politicians, military chiefs and diplomats from around the world.
Security authorities across the world are grappling with disinformation campaigns from Russia, Iran and others and with propaganda from fringe, extremist groups — often on the pages of Facebook.
Playing to the security conference’s base concerns, Zuckerberg said the company was catching up on fighting Russian trolling. He also backed Western lawmakers’ attempts at drafting technology laws to push back on China’s dominance.
The company has more than 35,000 people working on tasks like spotting and deleting harmful content and disinformation campaigns, he said.
“Our budget on security today is bigger than our entire budget when we went public in 2012,” he said.
The company in the past year took down several networks of troll accounts and disinformation pages and groups. It also publicly attributed disinformation campaigns, including to actors in Russia and Iran.
French President Emmanuel Macron, also speaking in Munich on Saturday, underlined that Europe needs a more forceful response to Russian election meddling.
“We need to be quick in our reaction, methodic,” Macron said, flagging threats to elections like the use of deep fakes and manipulation techniques. He said European authorities have to take steps to name and shame those posing the threat and “need to agree on sanctions.”
Many of the Western security officials in Munich are struggling to adapt traditional security responses to new threats like disinformation — and are calling on tech companies to take on more responsibility.
The systems Facebook has in place “are generally improving,” Zuckerberg said, pointing out that its algorithms now account for spotting up to 90 percent of terrorist propaganda that is taken down.
“Hate speech is more challenging,” he said, “because we have to train artificial intelligence systems to spot really small differences.”
Facebook has been fiercely criticized by EU lawmakers for allowing hate speech to thrive, boosting fake news through its algorithms, gathering extensive amounts of data and failing to respect users’ privacy. The company is under multiple investigations for violating Europe’s privacy laws.
Zuckerberg is scheduled to meet with European Commission officials Monday in Brussels.
He called on EU and other legislators to set stricter rules so that Facebook doesn’t have to make tough calls on questions like moderating hate speech or ruling on the truthfulness of information.
“There needs to be regulation in at least four areas touching our company. They are: elections and political discourse; privacy and data portability,” Zuckerberg said.
Facebook needs to “build the operational muscle to enforce the regulations,” he said, “but at some level we don’t want private companies making decisions about how to balance social equities without a democratic process.”
“There should be more guidance and regulation from the states” on what is considered election interference and harmful content, said the Facebook founder.
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