Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that the tech giant is “very focused on election security” heading into the 2020 presidential election — something pundits have ridiculed the company for in recent years, following the 2016 U.S. election.
“We were behind in 2016, but by any objective measure our efforts on election integrity have made a lot of progress,” Zuckerberg said on the company’s Q4 earnings call.
The company has been criticized for its inability to weed out Russian trolls during the 2016 election. These Kremlin-backed accounts often shared poorly-worded memes touching on hot button topics like gun control and immigration. One meme, shared during a 2018 congressional hearing investigating election interference, claimed “President Hillary Clinton will definitely end private gun ownership in the U.S.” You get the idea.
Facebook’s critics have continued to complain about this issue in the years following the election, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bringing it up again earlier this month. Pelosi skewered Facebook for not checking “on the money from Russia in the last election,” among other issues she took with the company.
Still, there is little reason to believe bogus Russian ads played a major role in shaping the results of the 2016 election. A study from Oxford University found Russian trolls, from the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, spent less than $75,000 on Facebook ads between 2015 and 2017.
Facebook has since made several changes to its ad accounting, introducing an ad library that publicly shares details on how much political advertisers are spending. It also now requires all U.S. political advertisers to register with a U.S. address. The company is betting these changes will curb false political ads from foreign actors.
Zuckerberg made the comments after Facebook shared its fourth-quarter results, which you can read about here.