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Facebook fights misinformation ahead of provincial, federal elections

Facebook is taking multiple steps to fight cyber threats and misinformation during Alberta’s election campaign and as a lead up to the federal election.

Speaking to reporters during a teleconference Friday, Kevin Chan, head of public policy for Facebook Canada said the company has launched several initiatives to help “protect election integrity.”

Chan said they started their work in 2017, leading up to the upcoming federal election and have based the work off a report released by the Communications Security Establishment that outlined the potential cyber threats. Account hacking and misinformation were identified as the biggest threats.

The initiatives recently launched in Canada to help combat these threats include the promotion of digital and news literacy, the release of a “cyber hygiene” guide for political parties and candidates to support cybersecurity along with a cyber-hygiene training program for federal political parties, an emergency cyber hotline for political parties to address cyber-challenges in real-time and an advertising transparency test.

The key areas Facebook is focusing on include combatting false news, increasing ad transparency, fighting fake accounts and proactively monitoring for information operations.

“If this account or this profile or this page, if we find evidence that in fact it’s fake or it’s inauthentic so it’s pretending to be something that it isn’t, that’s a very important thing for us to know because it allows us to go deeper and see what other connections these accounts or pages may have,” said Chan.

However, while there have been isolated incidents in the past, Chan said they have not yet seen any massive or large-scale coordinated behaviour to spread misinformation.

We have had some reports come in, we’ve looked at some things that OK, we agree this is a fake account, it’s trying to do something it shouldn’t be or it’s a page reporting to do one thing where it’s not,” he said.

Ahead of the Alberta election, Facebook Canada reached out to each political party in an effort to establish protocols with the parties so they know who to reach if they notice something suspicious.

“(We) conducted outreach to all Alberta political party and candidate (Facebook) page admins reminding them about two-factor authentication and ensuring they have access to our cyber threats crisis line,” said Chan.

They also sent in-app notifications to all political page administers, which appeared at the top of their feed, reminding them about two-factor authentication.

What these ongoing relationships with political parties (do is) make sure that in fact, they’re able to focus on doing what they’re able to do which is to engage in Canadians and engage with the electorate but it’s not like we don’t have ongoing communications to try to help them manage the pieces that are along the cybersecurity side,” said Chan.

He added that to his knowledge to date, there have been no reports by any of the parties on cybersecurity issues.

ajunker@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JunkerAnna

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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