Facebook unveils new team to prevent disinformation, data leaks

Facebook unveils new team to prevent disinformation, data leaks
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Executives at Facebook say that they hope a new team of ex-intelligence officers and media experts will help the company spot potential problems before they are exploited by bad actors.

A team of experts including former cybersecurity officials, researchers and media buyers will act as the company's "Investigative Operations Team," company executives told BuzzFeed News.

The group tests Facebook’s advertising systems, pages, Instagram, Messenger and other parts of its applications, searching for ways in which the company’s products can misused.

“What we have now is a series of people who are truly looking for how could you possibly do something wrong,” the company's business integrity director Lynda Talgo said.

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"Their entire job is to look forward and figure out what’s coming around the corner," she added in an interview with BuzzFeed.

Talgo added that the company is looking more broadly at its responsibilities as a media platform after Russian actors allegedly used stolen identities to sow disinformation and divisive rhetoric on Facebook among voters in swing states during the 2016 election.

The development of Facebook’s Investigative Operations Team comes after it and other Silicon Valley firms have gotten battered over misuse of their platforms during the past several years.

Journalists have exposed flaws in Facebook’s platform showing how it could have been used to discriminate against minority groups and highlighting how Social Security numbers were sold on its site.

“Speaking from my own experiences and my colleagues that I talk with in this field, it definitely seems like there’s a broader responsibility across the board that we all feel,” Talgo said.

She added that Facebook's inability to see the Russian threat coming stemmed from its “failure of imagination,” quoting advertising executive Rob Goldman in a recent meeting.

Facebook came under criticism after the 2016 election after it was revealed that more than 150 million users on Facebook and Instagram may have seen some form of Russian-sponsored content during the election, as well as tens of millions of users who had their personal private data unknowingly obtained by Cambridge Analytica, a data firm later used by the Trump campaign.

Google and Twitter’s platforms have seen similar misuse, which have become public relations nightmares.

—Ali Breland contributed.