NEW YORK Facebook is acknowledging that governments or other malicious non-state actors are using its social network to influence political sentiment in ways that could affect national elections. It s a long way from CEO Mark Zuckerberg s assertion back in November that it was pretty crazy to think that false news on Facebook influenced the U.S. presidential election. It s also a major sign that the world s biggest social network is continuing to grapple with its outsized role in how the world communicates, for better or for worse.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg originally did not acknowledge foreign election meddling on his site, but the company now says malicious actors did use Facebook as a platform and it is time to address the problem. Associated Press/Noah Berger
In a paper posted online on Thursday, Facebook security researchers and its chief security officer said the company will monitor the efforts of those who try to hurt civic discourse on its service, whether that s governments or other groups. It is also looking to identify fake accounts, and says it will notify people if their accounts have been targeted by such cyberattackers.
(We) have had to expand our security focus from traditional abusive behavior, such as account hacking, malware, spam and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people, the report states. It was written by researchers Jen Weedon and William Nuland and Facebook exec Alex Stamos and titled Information Operations and Facebook.
The team defined information operations as any actions taken by governments or other actors to distort domestic or foreign political sentiment to achieve a strategic purpose. Such operations can include the dissemination of false news and disinformation and the use of fake-account networks aimed at manipulating public opinion through a variety of means. Using the 2016 U.S. presidential election as an example, Facebook said it uncovered several situations where malicious actors used social media to share information stolen from other sources, such as email accounts, with the intent of harming the reputation of specific political targets.
The company did not name the actors or the victims, but it said its data does not contradict a January report by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence that Russia tried to meddle with the U.S. election.
MORE TO DO
Jonathan Albright, a professor who studies data journalism at Elon University in North Carolina, urged journalists and others back in February to look not just at the role of Facebook in spreading false or misleading information, but also at the sources of such information. That is, to attempt to identify both the producers of this material and those who spread it using social networks and other means. Facebook s paper addresses the amplifiers of such content the fake accounts that like and share false news stories, for example. The company has also announced steps to support legitimate journalism and news literacy. But the paper does not delve into ideas about attacking false news and propaganda at the source, including by banning such content from the site. Currently, Facebook users who want to share an article that has been debunked by outside fact-checkers, for example, are able to do so after they get a warning from Facebook. Facebook has long held that it does not want to be the arbiter of truth that it wants its users to decide for themselves (within limits of its terms of service) what they want to read and post.
But balancing a desire not to censor with a desire to weed out state-sponsored propaganda has been a challenging exercise for the company.
AUGUSTA Adam Cote, a renewable energy entrepreneur and veteran, has filed paperwork to run for governor on the Democratic ticket. Cote, of Sanford, is among the first of what is expected to be a crowded field of Democrats seeking the party s nomination in 2018. Last week, Maine Treasurer Terry Hayes of Buckfield, an independent, filed to run for governor, joining three other official candidates: Patrick Eisenhart of Augusta, a Democrat; Richard Light of Liberty, a Libertarian; and Deril Stubenrod of Clinton, a Republican.
Many more Democrats and Republicans are expected to run for their respective party primaries to succeed Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who is serving his second and final term. Cote is a 44-year-old attorney who focuses on energy and utility issues and is co-founder and CEO of the company Thermal Energy Storage of Maine. He has served 20 years in the Maine National Guard with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia is a recipient of the Bronze Star and in 2014 was named by President Obama one of 10 veterans nationwide as a Champion of Change for his work on clean energy and energy security. The father of five finished second behind Chellie Pingree in the 2008 Democratic primary for Maine s 1st Congressional District.
Cote registered as a candidate Wednesday with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. In a statement, Cote said he wants to turn the page from the dead-end politics of division.
- ^ more Democrats and Republicans are expected to run (www.pressherald.com)
AUGUSTA The Maine Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to end the state s opposition to federal Real ID requirements and to begin the process of redesigning the state s driver s licenses. Without legislative action, Maine residents likely will be unable to use their driver s licenses to board commercial airplanes starting in January because the state has yet to implement the stronger security standards. On Thursday, the Maine Senate voted 31-4 in support of a bill that directs the Secretary of State s Office to issue new driver s licenses that comply with the federal Real ID rules.
If you want to see disruption and chaos back home because we didn t act not just this year but for the past 10 years knowing full well that the deadline was before us then we will see that and we all will hear that. And we should, said bill sponsor Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, a former secretary of state. The bill, L.D. 306, is now headed to the House for consideration. Gov. Paul LePage has called for the Legislature to pass the bill.
If passed and signed as expected by LePage, Maine would get a grace period through a waiver from the federal Department of Homeland Security as the state moves toward federal compliance and new driver s licenses. Mainers would keep their current licenses until it is time to renew, and their next licenses would meet the new standards. It will take as long as a year for the state s Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which issues licenses and identification cards, to get a new system up and running. Maine is one of a handful of states that have refused to comply with the Real ID law and not received extended waivers from the federal government. Federal officials insist that the additional requirements including digitized images of the card holder as well as federal access to a database of birth certificates and photographs are necessary to help thwart terrorism.
Opponents of Real ID, including current Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, have warned that the federal mandates could violate Mainers privacy without enhancing security. Sen. Shenna Bellows, a Manchester Democrat who formerly headed the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said it was madness for our state to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to set up what will be a treasure trove for identity thieves.
With any centralized database, particularly when there are not enough resources to keep pace with the technology developed by hackers and thieves, it is not a question of if the data will be breached, but when and to what consequences, Bellows said. Both Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, and Sen. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, called Real ID a giant unfunded mandate because Dunlap s office has estimated it would cost $2 million to $3 million to implement.
Instead, opponents said Mainers can use passports or passport cards to get through airport security or gain access to federal facilities. But lawmakers are under increasing pressure to adopt the Real ID requirements because some people already are being affected.
- ^ unable to use their driver s licenses to board commercial airplanes (www.pressherald.com)
- ^ violate Mainers privacy without enhancing security (www.pressherald.com)