Facebook to launch 'war room' to fight political ad fraud

Clegg: former Liberal Democrats party leader and deputy prime minister
Clegg: former Liberal Democrats party leader and deputy prime minister

Nick Clegg's first speech in new role warns of over-regulating US tech companies.

Facebook will launch a "war room" in Dublin to improve political misinformation and fraudulent political ads spreading on its platform, its global head of communications, Nick Clegg, has promised. 

The former UK deputy prime minister explained how Facebook wants to improve its accountability in his first speech since being appointed by the social giant last year. 

Clegg announced that Facebook’s tool for screening political advertisers will roll out across Europe in March, having already launched in the UK and the US. Facebook will also set up an operations centre – described as a "war room" – in Dublin in the spring that would be focused on "elections integrity".

The Ads Library tools were called into question after being launched in the UK in October last year, when Vice News showed that it was open to abuse.

Speaking to European lawmakers in Brussels in a one-hour speech, Clegg said: "What I have seen in my short time at Facebook is a young company – only 15 years old next month – which has grown at a startling pace, has undoubtedly made mistakes and is now entering a new phase of reform, responsibility and change.

"We are at the start of a discussion which is no longer about whether social media should be regulated, but how it should be regulated."

However, Clegg warned that over-regulating Facebook and other data-driven businesses in the US would risk giving China a global advantage in tech innovation. 

"[The Chinese approach could] be put to more sinister surveillance ends, as we have seen with the Chinese government’s controversial social credit system," he said. 

Clegg's speech came a day after Facbeook was accused of restructing the ability of outside transparency watchdogs to monitor ads being placed on the social network.

WhoTargetsMe, a British campaign group, and US investigative journalism site ProPublica complained that their monitoring software stopped working this month because of a change to Facebook’s code.

Facebook, however, said the change was part of a wider effort to prevent unauthorised access by third-party browser plug-ins such as ad-blockers.

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