Facebook appears to have survived this election cycle — but that’s what we thought in 2016, too
It may be months before we can say with any confidence how Facebook performed during the midterms.
It’s the day after the U.S. midterms and Facebook appears to be … fine.
The social network, which has been scrambling for months to prepare for the midterms in order to avoid another election incident like what happened in 2016, made it through Election Day without a monumental screwup.
It doesn’t appear that Facebook was hacked, there wasn’t massive voter confusion caused by a viral Facebook story, and while there was still plenty of misinformation making the rounds, people and media outlets were, at the very least, prepared and looking for it.
That’s what we know about.
The problem, of course, is that Facebook appeared to be fine the day after the 2016 election, too. CEO Mark Zuckerberg even dismissed the idea that so-called fake news was a real problem. It wasn’t until months later that people, Facebook included, fully realized the extent to which Russian trolls were using the service to try and sow political discord among U.S. voters.
Facebook has been actively looking for those same kinds of coordinated campaigns this year, and updated the public about some of its findings along the way. It did so again late Monday night, announcing that a tip from law enforcement led to the removal of a group of more than 100 accounts and Pages. On Tuesday night, Facebook suggested that those Pages may have been tied to the Internet Research Agency, the same Russian group that was meddling on Facebook during the 2016 election.
“This is a timely reminder that these bad actors won’t give up — and why it’s so important we work with the U.S. government and other technology companies to stay ahead,” Nathaniel Gleicher, the company’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in a statement.
It’s good that Facebook caught that group of accounts, and others from Iran earlier this year. It’s also good that law enforcement was helping Facebook look. Maybe those accounts would have slipped through the cracks without the “extra set of eyes.”
The reality, though, is that we still have no idea what impact any of those accounts or posts may have had on voter behavior. Eventually, we may know how many people they reached or what kind of content they were posting. But there’s a good chance we will never know how influential those posts were in shaping voter opinion.
It’s also possible there are more accounts out there that Facebook still hasn’t found. Given how important this effort has been to the company, it seems unlikely there would be some kind of massive coordinated campaign similar to the one from 2016 that nobody knows about. But it’s possible, and it could be weeks or months before we know for certain.
So yes, Facebook made it through the election. How did it perform during the midterms? It’s still too soon to call.