Tech

Zuckerberg adds friends: The Munich security crowd

MUNICH — Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said Saturday the company is getting better at fighting new security threats that ravage its social media platform.

“The security landscape is no longer one of traditional hacking. Its now one of disinformation,” Zuckerberg told the Munich Security Conference, a high-powered annual gathering of politicians, military chiefs and diplomats from around the world.

Security authorities across the world are grappling with disinformation campaigns from Russia, Iran and others and with propaganda from fringe, extremist groups — often on the pages of Facebook.

Playing to the security conferences base concerns, Zuckerberg said the company was catching up on fighting Russian trolling. He also backed Western lawmakers attempts at drafting technology laws to push back on Chinas dominance.

The company has more than 35,000 people working on tasks like spotting and deleting harmful content and disinformation campaigns, he said.

“Our budget on security today is bigger than our entire budget when we went public in 2012,” he said.

The company in the past year took down several networks of troll accounts and disinformation pages and groups. It also publicly attributed disinformation campaigns, including to actors in Russia and Iran.

French President Emmanuel Macron, also speaking in Munich on Saturday, underlined that Europe needs a more forceful response to Russian election meddling.

“We need to be quick in our reaction, methodic,” Macron said, flagging threats to elections like the use of deep fakes and manipulation techniques. He said European authorities have to take steps to name and shame those posing the threat and “need to agree on sanctions.”

Operational muscle

Many of the Western security officials in Munich are struggling to adapt traditional security responses to new threats like disinformation — and are calling on tech companies to take on more responsibility.

The systems Facebook has in place “are generally improving,” Zuckerberg said, pointing out that its algorithms now account for spotting up to 90 percent of terrorist propaganda that is taken down.

“Hate speech is more challenging,” he said, “because we have to train artificial intelligence systems to spot really small differences.”

Facebook has been fiercely criticized by EU lawmakers for allowing hate speech to thrive, boosting fake news through its algorithms, gathering extensive amounts of data and failing to respect users privacy. The company is under multiple investigations for violating Europes privacy laws.

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