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Facebook: Employee accuses platform of political manipulation

Facebook ignored or delayed acting on evidence, as fake accounts in platform undermine his elections and political relations around the world, according to information released by Sophie Zhang, a recently fired Facebook employee.

The 6.600-word memo, written by former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang, is replete with specific examples of fake government leaders and political parties in Azerbaijan and Honduras. accounts or misleading presentations to influence public opinion. In countries such as India, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador, Zhang found evidence of coordinated campaigns of various sizes that reinforced or hindered political candidates or election results.

"In the three years I have been on Facebook, I have found many obvious attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on a huge scale to mislead their citizens and have caused international events on many occasions," Zhang wrote. In her profile at LinkedIn stated that he "worked as a data scientist for the Facebook data management team" and dealt with "bots affecting the elections, etc. "

"I have made decisions that have influenced the presidents of many nations without the supervision of a superior, and I have taken so many steps against many prominent politicians around the world that I have now lost count," he said.

The memo is a series of events that condemn Facebook's failures. It is the story of the platform relinquishing responsibility for malicious activities that could affect the political fortunes of nations outside the United States or Western Europe. It is also the story of a junior employee who exerted tremendous pressure that affected millions of people without real institutional support and the personal martyrdom that followed.

No origin added yet for Zhang

"I know I have blood on my hands now," Zhang wrote.

These are some of the biggest revelations in her memoir:

  • It took nine months for Facebook leaders to launch a coordinated campaign "that used thousands of fake assets to push Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on a massive scale to mislead the Honduran people."
  • In Azerbaijan, Zhang found that the ruling political party "used thousands of fake assets to harass the opposition." Facebook began looking into the issue a year after Zhang's report. THE research is still in progress.
  • Zhang and her associates removed "10,5 million fake reactions and fans from the profile of a high-ranking politician in Brazil and the United States. in the 2018 elections ".
  • In February 2019, one of his researchers ΝΑΤΟ informed Facebook that "it had detected fake Russian activity in a high-profile US political figure. that Facebook never found. ” Zhang removed this activity.
  • In Ukraine, Zhang identified a "fake activity" that backed both former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a pro-European politician and former presidential candidate, and Volodymyr Groisman, a former prime minister and ally of former President Petro Poros. "Voldier Zelensky and his associates were the only large group unaffected," Zhang said of the current Ukrainian president.
  • Zhang discovered non-genuine activity - a term on Facebook for blocking bot accounts and coordinated accounts - in Bolivia and Ecuador, but chose not to "prioritize" because of its workload. The power she had as a mid-level official to make decisions about a country's political outcomes affected her health.
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  • After realizing the coordinated manipulation on the Facebook page of the Spanish Ministry of Health during the pandemic COVID-19, Zhang helped find and eliminate 672.000 fake accounts "operating for similar purposes worldwide", including USA.
  • In India, he worked to remove “a politically advanced network with more than a thousand accounts ”working to influence local elections in Delhi in February. Facebook has never publicly disclosed this network or that it had removed it.

"We have set up specialized teams, working with top experts, to prevent malicious users from abusing our systems, resulting in the removal of more than 100 networks that have been compromised," Facebook spokeswoman Liz Bourgeois said in a statement. "The work that these teams are doing is a full-time mission. Fighting them is our priority, but we also tackle the problems of spam and fake engagement. "We are considering each issue carefully, including those raised by Ms Zhang, before taking any action."