Zuckerberg claims lack of U.S. action on 2016 Russian election interference inspired Iran and others

Looks like Facebook has decided that going on the offensive is better when it comes to government regulation.

Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Fest in Colorado, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday said America's weak response to Russia's interference in the 2016 elections has inspired similar disinformation attacks from other countries, notably Iran.

Writes Salvador Rodriguez at CNBC:

“The signal that was sent to the world was that ‘O.K. We’re open for business,’” Zuckerberg said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. “Countries can try to do this stuff and our companies will try their best to try to limit it, but fundamentally, there isn’t going to be a major recourse from the American government.”

Facebook prohibits the coordinated use of a network of accounts to spread misinformation on its services, or what the company refers to as “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

Here is Zuckerberg’s comment in full:

As a private company we don’t have the tools to make the Russian government stop. We can defend as best as we can, but our government is the one that has the tools to apply pressure to Russia, not us.

One of the mistakes that I worry about is that after 2016 when the government didn’t take any kind of counteraction. The signal that was sent to the world was that “O.K. We’re open for business.” Countries can try to do this stuff and our companies will try their best to try to limit it, but fundamentally, there isn’t going to be a major recourse from the American government.

Since then, we’ve seen increased activity from Iran and other countries, and we are very engaged in ramping up the defenses. The amount that we spend on safety and security now as a company is billions of dollars a year. It is greater than the whole revenue of our company was when we went public earlier this decade.

We’ve ramped up massively on the security side, but there’s very little that we can do on our own to change the incentives for nation states to act. That’s something that is a little bit above our pay grade.

Axios today writes that Zuckerberg now appears to be “making a deliberate effort to show more of himself, and to be proactive about calling for Congress to regulate privacy and data.”

Zuckerberg faced 40 minutes of onstage questions yesterday at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, in a detailed conversation with Harvard's Cass Sunstein, who noted he has twice been a Facebook consultant.

At the Colorado event, Zuck also told the audience that Facebook is working on a new approach to 'deepfake videos,' may handle them differently from other "false news," as Facebook calls fake news.

From the Associated Press:

Zuckerberg says it’s worth asking whether deepfakes are a “completely different category” from regular false statements. He says developing a policy on these videos is “really important” as AI technology grows more sophisticated.

Facebook, like other social media companies, does not have a specific policy against deepfakes, whose potential threat has emerged only in the last couple of years. Company executives have said in the past that it makes sense to look at them under the broader umbrella of false or misleading information. But Zuckerberg is signaling that this view might be changing, leaving open the possibility that Facebook might ban deepfakes altogether.

Doing so, of course, could get complicated. Satire, art and political dissent could be swept up in any overly broad ban, creating more headaches from Facebook.

Zuck also said in Aspen that he's still against the government-ordered breakup of Big Tech that Democratic candidates like Elizabeth Warren are pushing.

"Breaking up these companies wouldn't make any of these companies better. (...) You would have those issues, you'd just be much less equipped to deal with them."

On the subject of election interference by Russia and other foreign enemies via Facebook and other platforms, Senator Ron Wyden's remarks this weeks are important. He believes 2020 will be worse than 2016.