Facebook to work with Germany ahead of EU elections

Partnership to combat election interference

By CNN'S DONIE O'SULLIVAN CONTRIBUTED
Jim Castel via CNN

(CNN) - Facebook will partner with German officials ahead of the European Union elections in May to crack down on fake accounts and misinformation.

Sheryl Sandberg said the company will work with the German Federal Office for Information and Security as well as other companies and research partners to "help guide policy making in Germany and across the EU on election interference."

Sandberg made the announcement during a speech at a business conference in Munich on Sunday. She said the initiative will build on work Facebook (FB) did with German officials during federal elections in 2017, when company said it took down "tens of thousands" of fake accounts.

Facebook declined to share additional details.

The company's head of ad transparency, Rob Leathern, told CNN Business on Thursday that the platform will also implement new rules for campaigns that are buying ads around this year's elections in India and the European Union.

The initiative will be similar to those the company rolled out in the United States, United Kingdom, and Brazil in 2018, which require political advertisers to authenticate their identity before buying an ad. In the United States, this involves ad-buyers providing Facebook with their Social Security information, a copy of a government-issued ID and a US address.

Citizens from 28 EU member states will vote in the European Parliament elections in May. India's general election will begin in April.

Facebook has been rocked by a cascade of scandals regarding its handling of private user data and its own data security measures.

The company has also earned criticism for its handling of disinformation that was spreading on its platform in the run up to the 2016 US presidential election.

In November, Facebook said more than 600,000 users in the United States were following fake accounts created by a Russian troll group ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The accounts had previously gone undetected.

"At Facebook, these last few years have been really difficult," Sandberg said Sunday. "We know we need to do better at making sure we can anticipate the risks that come from connecting so many people."

The company has said it's adjusted how it shares user information and is working to thwart misinformation by beefing up its security team.

Facebook says 30,000 people work in its safety and security department — three times more than in 2017. Facebook said in December that about half of those workers are content reviewers and include full-time employees and contractors.

The platform is removing "more than one million fake accounts every day, often as they're created," Sandberg said, and working with "fact checkers around the world to reduce the distribution of fake news."

"We have a lot of hard work to do," Sandberg said. "We are far from done, but we have a fundamentally different approach to how we run our company today."

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