Read More: Scientific American
Congress interrogated Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for two days this week over his company’s privacy policies—and its apparent inability to prevent the misuse of its social media platform by some promoting hatred, terrorism or political propaganda. Throughout Zuckerberg’s apologies for not doing more to protect users’ privacy and curb the spread of false and misleading information on the site, he repeatedly reassured lawmakers that artificial intelligence would soon fix many of Facebook’s problems. Whether or not he has a strong case depends on how his company specifically plans to use AI—and how quickly the technology matures over the next few years. Zuckerberg touted several AI successes before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Facebook AI algorithms already find and delete 99 percent of terrorist propaganda and recruitment efforts posted by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda-related Facebook accounts, Zuckerberg testified during Tuesday’s Senate hearing. But the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), a nonprofit nongovernmental organization that monitors and reports on the terrorist-group activities, disputed Facebook’s claim the same day. The CEP issued a statement saying it still finds “examples of extremist content and hate speech on Facebook on a regular basis.” Facebook’s founder frequently reminded Congress that he launched the network from his dorm room in 2004, and he acknowledged several times that his approach to monitoring content has long relied on members reporting misuse. That reactive stance has contributed over the years to the company’s failure to quickly find and remove discriminatory advertisements, hateful content directed at specific groups, and terrorist messages, he said. Nor was Facebook equipped to handle the deluge of misleading news articles posted by Russian groups seeking to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. AI is already helping Facebook address some of those problems, according to Zuckerberg, who said that the company used the technology to find and delete “tens of thousands” of accounts seeking to influence voters prior to political elections in France, Germany and elsewhere within the past year.