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Facebook says it's in 'a really good place' for the 2018 midterm elections

  • Facebook held a conference call with reporters on Thursday to discuss election security.
  • The company said it's focused on foreign interference, fake accounts, ad transparency and reducing fake news.
  • One executive said the company is better prepared for the 2018 midterm elections.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook
Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook

After a brutal two weeks for Facebook that's wiped out over $50 billion of market value, company executives held a conference call with reporters on Thursday to discuss how it plans to deal with the pressing issue of election security.

Of particular interest to American voters is how the company is positioned for the congressional midterm elections in a little over seven months.

Samidh Chakrabarti, who leads Facebook's work on election security and civic engagement, said that the company has been using elections in other countries as a testing ground for a new investigative tool that proactively searches for "harmful types of election-related activity" like pages from foreign actors distributing fake content.

In addition to deploying the tool for the Alabama special Senate election in late 2017, Facebook has monitored activity around election campaigns in Italy and elsewhere, Chakrabarti said. Since the U.S. presidential election in 2016, during which Russians and other groups flooded Facebook with fake news and other propaganda, Chakrabarti said the company has seen elections in Germany, France and Kenya.

"We've gotten progressively better over the last year and a half," he said. "We feel like we're going to be in a really good place for the 2018 midterms."

Facebook has taken a beating in public since revelations earlier this month that Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign, misused data from 50 million Facebook profiles, allowing users to be targeted with political messages.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg have publicly apologized and vowed to invest heavily in rooting out the problem. Shares of the social network gained 4.5 percent on Thursday, but are still down 14 percent in the two weeks since the Cambridge Analytica story surfaced.

On Thursday's call, five Facebook executives, including Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos (who is reportedly leaving later this year), focused on four issues that the company is pursuing related to election security: Combating foreign interference, removing fake accounts, increasing ad transparency and reducing the spread of fake news.

"None of us can turn back the clock," said Guy Rosen, vice president of product management at Facebook. "But we are all responsible for making sure the same kind of attack our democracy does not happen again. And we are taking our role in that effort very, very seriously."