Facebook goes harder after 'fake news' accounts, adding new security tools and rooting out bad actors

Key Points
  • Facebook will be expanding security measures to prevent "more subtle and insidious forms of misuse"
  • Added security features will try to prevent data hacks. It will also notify users when they have been hacked, and whether they are at risk of being targeted
  • The company has added new technologies to remove fake accounts
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., speaks during the F8 Developers Conference in San Jose, California, U.S., on Tuesday, April 18, 2017.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Facebook is pressing its enforcement against what it calls "information operations" — bad actors who use the platform to spread fake news and false propaganda.

The company said Thursday it's adding new technologies to find fake accounts and detect abuse on its platform. The company said it is combating "false amplifiers" of political stances — which can include fake accounts or groups, coordinated attempts to share and like certain posts, online harassment or the creation of "inflammatory or racist" content.

The company said it will expand security measures to protect against "more subtle and insidious forms of misuse," like the purposeful spread of misinformation to influence public sentiment. In particular, Facebook will improve security around data hacks and "fake amplification," instances when false accounts spread incorrect information in order to manipulate public opinion. Other previous improvements have allowed Facebook to take action against more than 30,000 fake accounts in France since April 13, the company said.

"Supporting authentic conversations on our platform and helping build a more informed, civically engaged community are important to us," chief security officer Alex Stamos wrote on Facebook's website on Thursday. "But we also know that some groups and individuals have attempted to misuse Facebook in efforts to spread misinformation or to manipulate discussions."

The company will also add customizable security and privacy features, including two-factor authentication to prevent hackers from getting personal information. It will also notify users if they have been targeted — and people who may be at risk of being targeted — and provide recommendations on what to do next. It will also work with governments to help educate individuals who may be at higher risk of a data breach.

"Facebook is a place for people to communicate and engage authentically, including around political topics," the company wrote in a white paper on "information operations." "If legitimate voices are being drowned out by fake accounts, authentic conversation becomes very difficult."

Social media has made it easier to share false propaganda on a global scale, the company noted. Some of the tactics include posting factually incorrect articles, using fake accounts to spread information and spreading "disinformation," manipulated or inaccurate facts to bolster a certain position.

"The term 'fake news' has emerged as a catch-all phrase to refer to everything from news articles that are factually incorrect to opinion pieces, parodies and sarcasm, hoaxes, rumors, memes, online abuse, and factual misstatements by public figures that are reported in otherwise accurate news pieces," Facebook wrote in the white paper released Thursday. "The overuse and misuse of the term 'fake news' can be problematic because, without common definitions, we cannot understand or fully address these issues."