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Facebook is creating a hotline to help Canadian politicians who get hacked

Ahead of 2019 election, the company has been trying to combat the spread of fake news and attempts to use its platform to interfere with votes

by Rachel Browne
Oct 19 2017, 11:03am

Facebook plans to set up a new hotline for Canadian politicians and parties to use in the event they get hacked ahead of the next federal election.

It’s part of the company’s “Canadian Election Integrity Initiative” being announced on Thursday in an attempt to help curb election interference on the world’s largest social media platform. A recent report from Canada’s foreign intelligence agency, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), warned that the 2019 elections could be vulnerable to cyberattacks.

The Canadian plan will include an exclusive emergency email address that political parties and candidates can use to alert Facebook if their accounts have been compromised or hacked. It also provides a “cyber hygiene guide” for Members of Parliament and their parties to help protect against fake Facebook accounts attempting to spread misinformation or perpetrate other malicious acts.

“We know that Facebook plays an important role in facilitating public dialogue,” Kevin Chan, Facebook Canada’s head of public policy, wrote in a statement on Thursday. “That’s why we take the threats identified by the CSE very seriously and why we’re starting now to proactively address them.”

Facebook has faced intense criticism in recent months after Russian-backed hackers allegedly used the platform to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. In September, the company announced it would hand over to Congress thousands of ads bought by Russian-linked accounts to promote Russian interests. Facebook’s general counsel is expected to testify before the House and Senate intelligence committees in November as part of a probe into Russian interference.

In September, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a suite of new measures to combat election disruption and boost transparency. The company increased the size of its election integrity team and aims to add 250 more staff to work on security.

“I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy,” Zuckerberg said at the time. “It is a new challenge for internet communities to deal with nation-states attempting to subvert elections. But if that’s what we must do, we are committed to rising to the occasion.”

Last month, Google Canada also pledged $500,000 to fund a new program to help educate young Canadians on critically analyzing news sources and spot fake news.

Canada’s Democratic Institutions minister Katrina Gould has been calling on companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter to crack down on the dissemination of false information. She welcomed Facebook’s initiative as a positive first step.

“There is much more to be done, and social media platforms have a responsibility to take action to ensure the continued protection of our democratic process,” Gould told the Toronto Star. “I encourage all digital platforms to think critically about their current practices and how they can create spaces for informed public dialogue and information we consume.”

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