“Facebook could tell us how Russia interfered in our elections. Why won’t it?”

Phillip Howard and Robert Gorwa WaPo oped (that I missed last week):

This month, one of the most important intelligence documents about Russian interference in the U.S. election emerged. But it didn’t come from the National Security Agency or the House Intelligence Committee. It was published by Facebook.

Facebook’s report on “Information Operations” was the company’s first public acknowledgment that political actors have been influencing public opinion through the social networking platform. The company says it will work to combat these information operations, and it has taken some positive steps. It removed some 30,000 fake accounts before the French election last month. It has purged thousands more ahead of the upcoming British election.

But more important, the report reveals that while we are all talking about “fake news,” we should also be talking about the algorithms and fake accounts that push bad information around….

The company argues that fake accounts have been participating in only a small amount of the overall activity around politics and public life in the United States. But even a small percentage of total Facebook activity, if concentrated strategically, could be influential. Was the activity mostly in swing states? Did it occur in the months of the Republican primaries and originate with accounts seeded from Russia? Or did fake-news and fake- account activity peak in the three days before the election?

If there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian influence operations, Facebook may be able to spot that, too. In many ways, massive coordinated propaganda campaigns are just another form of election interference. If Facebook has data on this, it needs to share it. The House Intelligence Committee should call Facebook to testify as part of its investigation.

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