Former President Barack Obama tried to give Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a “wake-up call” over the scourge of fake news, according to the Washington Post, which cited people who were briefed on the conversation.
At a meeting of world leaders in Lima, Peru, Obama warned the 33-year-old executive — less than two week after Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election — the issue would only become more severe if Facebook and the government didn’t work to weed out fake news. Zuckerberg acknowledged the seriousness of it, but told Obama the problem wasn’t widespread, and there was “no easy remedy,” according to WaPo sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Only days before, Zuckerberg had said it was a “pretty crazy idea” to think Russia-linked phony news stories helped get Trump elected.
Flash forward nearly a year later, and Facebook and its chief executive have changed their tune. Zuckerberg said last week the social network is working with Congress, sharing 3,000 political ads purchased by Russian agents.
In a video posted to his Facebook page last Thursday, Zuckerberg said it’s “not realistic” to prevent “all interference,” but that the company had shut down “thousands of fake accounts.”
“I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity,” said Zuckeberg. “Facebook’s mission is all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together. Those are democratic values and I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That’s not what we stand for.”
Facebook disclosed earlier this month more than $100,000 worth of ads had been purchased by Pro-Kremlin accounts before and after the 2016 election. Rather than support specific candidates, the ads would generally touch on hot-button political issues, like gun control, immigration and race.
Facebook stumbled into a hacking group connected to the GRU — Russia’s military intelligence arm — that was using fake Facebook accounts to share stolen information as early as June 2016, WaPo also reported Sunday, citing a person familiar with the matter. “Fancy Bear,” the hacking group behind the accounts, created one account to post raided emails from the Democratic National Committee. Facebook alerted the FBI to the activity, but noted many of the other fake news accounts weren’t tied to foreign governments, but were strictly set up for financial gain.