Guardian Investigation Exposes the Breadth of State-backed Manipulation of Facebook

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A Guardian Newspaper investigation in April 2021, exposes the breadth of state-backed manipulation of the platform

It seems that Facebook has repeatedly allowed world leaders and politicians to use its platform to deceive the public or harass opponents despite being alerted to evidence of the wrongdoing.

A Guardian investigation shows how Facebook allowed major abuses of its platform in poor, small and non-western countries to prioritize addressing abuses that attract media attention or affect the US and other wealthy countries but moved slowly or not at all on cases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mongolia, Mexico and much of Latin America. A former Facebook data scientist explained “the cost isn’t borne by Facebook. It’s borne by the broader world as a whole.”

The Guardian report reveals that even after the historic fiasco of the 2016 US election, when Russian agents used inauthentic Facebook accounts to deceive and divide American voters, the company has repeatedly failed to take timely action when presented with evidence of rampant manipulation and abuse of its tools by political leaders around the world.  But Facebook fundamentally disagrees with this assessment.  “We aggressively go after abuse around the world and have specialized teams focused on this work…”

Facebook plays a dominant role in the political discourse of nearly every country in the world. But the platform’s algorithms and features can be manipulated to distort political debate.  One way to do this is by creating fake “engagement” – likes, comments, shares and reactions – using inauthentic or compromised Facebook accounts.

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