When Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the recent Munich Security Conference he said his company is now taking down a million fake accounts every day. He also said that Facebook now spends more on dealing with fake and harmful content than the entire revenue of the company when it went public in 2012.
35,000 people are employed to ‘review online content and take security measures’.
He is proud of this but ‘needs to remain vigilant’.
While this was meant to be a signal that Zuckerberg and Facebook are ‘on it’ when it comes to fake news, harmful content and election manipulation, it also begs a question.
Will the measures taken by companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and others ever get ahead, let alone win the war of abuse of the open, ‘social’ platforms that we welcomed a decade ago?
The answer is almost certainly ‘no’.
Ever since FBI agents exchanged their handguns for laptops back in the 90s there has been an acceptance that, with law enforcement, the game will be fast catch up and rapid reponse, rather than a pretence that you can realistically get ahead of the bad guys.
That Zuckerberg and Facebook has put aside a budget bigger than the company’s revenues in 2012 (roughly $1.5 billon) certainly says something about its commitment. It also says something about its deep pockets (partly due to clever tax manipulation) and pressure from Government.
It also says that security and rapid response budgets, not only at Facebook but across all similar platforms have grown enormously over the past few years – and in all likelihood will continue to do so.
Set against the backdrop of the issues discussed at the Munich Security Conference, where people such as Mike Pompeo rub shoulders with Angela Merkel and the Chiefs of NATO to discuss geopolitical security issues (and the erosion of the ‘West’), social media may seem insignificant.
Yet social media is now the carrier pigeon, the leaflet dropping plane and propaganda machine of our times – and as powerful. As countries begin (or continue to) fund its exploitation, other countries must throw equal or greater resources into protecting and securing it.
It may be too late. It may be that social media (through its journey from social media, to commercial and now antisocial media) has become a threat as great as any used in the last big wars.
Once again, it seems to be that you start something that looks as if it will benefit mankind and help its ability to communicate and bond.
And you end up with a monster that takes all our efforts and strength to bring back under control.
The question is: how much effort, and who should bring that strength to bear?