Facebook deletes “tens of thousands” of German users in its fight against fake news

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Speaking at F8 conference germany

Facebook has removed users and introduced new features to fight fake news

Facebook VP of Public Policy for Europe, Richard Allen, announced that “tens of thousands” of fake accounts had been deleted just before the German election to curb the impact of misleading political advertise on the elections impact.

Facebook’s focus on the German elections comes only a week after it gave US congressional committees 3,000 Russian-linked political advertisements, and vowing to cooperate with national governments to prevent election interference of a similar nature. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg released a list of 9 steps it plans to take to fight election interference, which in its ninth point committed to ensure the integrity of the German elections:

 

“We have been working to ensure the integrity of the German elections this weekend, from taking actions against thousands of fake accounts, to partnering with public authorities like the Federal Office for Information Security”

 

Before the election, analysts of polls and social media data suggested that the mainstream parties, the CDU and SPD, would be under pressure from third party alternatives such as the AfD. German Chancellor, Angela Merkele of the CDU, was reelected for a fourth term, but her party lost 55 seats in the parliament. The SPD, Germany’s second largest party, lost 40 of their seats, a first since the Second World War.

Percentage of Votes by Party

  • CDU/CSU
  • SPD
  • AfD
  • Die Linke
  • Grüne
  • FDP

AfD's Upset

Data from German Facebook activity showed that the AfD’s voter participation graphic, meant to be shared by those voted for the party, was reposted by 20,000 users, roughly one-tenth the number of people that reposted a a similar graphic by the SPD. AfD’s posts were shared and reposted more than 800,000 times over the past year, more than every other major German political party.

Cumulative FB shares by Party Photo via: Washington Post's Monkey Cage

Facebook’s handling of the German elections was a dramatic change in tone from statements made earlier this year, after it criticized legislation allowing German authorities to fine social media companies up to €50 million if they failed to remove slander or threatening speech from their sites quickly enough.

logo of the alternative for deutscheland or germany part who won a surprising number of seats in the german election

Future Elections with Facebook

Remarks by Mark Zuckerberg after the elections suggest that Facebook found no organized attempts to circulate fakes news or political. Allan Richards clarified that misleading political ads and news were present during the German election, “These actions did not eliminate misinformation entirely in this election—but they did make it harder to spread, and less likely to appear in people’s News Feeds,”

By showing users political ads and news from both sides of the spectrum, cracking down on bot accounts, and collecting lists of officials’ declared stances on issues, Facebook is making good on its promise to fight fake news and advertisements. The tools and tactics it displayed in Germany give the public an idea of how major names in social media will confront the fake news phenomenon on their platforms.

For more politics coverage, including more coverage of Facebook and other social media companies’ responses to fake news and political advertising, check out our politics section.

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  • Tyler Newman

    Reporter

    I am a 24-year old online reporter based in Minnesota. With Leafly and the Minnesota Daily, I wrote AP-style compliant copy, and produced multimedia pieces covering U.S. politics, markets, lifestyle, and college sports. Data Journalism is a cause I stand firmly behind, furnishing existing visualizations with fresh data and producing some of my own. On the side, I’m a gadget geek, coffee snob, and blockchain technology enthusiast.

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