Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook boss: ‘Where we went wrong’

THE world's largest social network will today reveal whether your personal details were harvested, sold to a political analysis firm, and used to influence world elections.

But while 87 million Facebook users were believed to be swept up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, even more could have been served Russian election propaganda on the social network and on its offshoot Instagram, as revealed in preliminary testimony from chief executive Mark Zuckerberg overnight.

In his 2700 word introductory testimony, released by Congress ahead of his appearance early Wednesday, Mr Zuckerberg revealed as many as 157 million Facebook and Instagram users received "disinformation" from a Russian outlet known as the internet Research Agency (IRA).

Mr Zuckerberg said the group paid Facebook $US100,000 for "more than 3000 ads on Facebook and Instagram, which were seen by an estimated 11 million people in the United States".

The group's accounts were not shut down until long after the 2016 US election, in August 2017.

Another 470 accounts and pages spread about 80,000 posts to Facebook users over two years before they were shut down.

"Our best estimate is that approximately 126 million people may have been served content from a Facebook page associated with the IRA at some point during that period," Mr Zuckerberg said in his testimony.

"On Instagram, where our data on reach is not as complete, we found about 120,000 pieces of content, and estimate that an additional 20 million people were likely served it."

Facebook will let users know if their data was shared, and some 2.2 billion Facebook users will be given access to a link to see what apps they use and what information they shared with those apps. Picture: AP
Facebook will let users know if their data was shared, and some 2.2 billion Facebook users will be given access to a link to see what apps they use and what information they shared with those apps. Picture: AP

Facebook was also used by a group called APT 28 "that the US government has publicly linked to Russian military intelligence services" to "seed stolen information to journalists" in the summer of 2016 before the social network banned the accounts.

Mr Zuckerberg admitted his network, which boasts more than 2 billion monthly active users, did not handle foreign political intrusion as quickly as it should have, and pledged to hire an additional 5000 security and content review specialists by the end of the year even though it, and other measures, would "significantly impact our profitability going forward".

"We were too slow to spot and respond to Russian interference, and we're working hard to get better," he said. "Our sophistication in handling these threats is growing and improving quickly."

Mr Zuckerberg's testimony was released the same day as Facebook users collectively refreshed their apps and web pages, and waited to find out whether their information was harvested and sold to data firm Cambridge Analytica.

The social network's new tool, which will appear at the top of users' Newsfeeds today, will either show a short, two-paragraph message about protecting your information, or a longer, four-paragraph message warning that your data was taken by third parties.

It doesn't apologise for the action, but says Facebook is "committed to confronting abuse and to putting you in control of your privacy".



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