Facebook reportedly cut Russia from election meddling report

Facebook whittled down a public report on election meddling to remove mentions to Russia, The Wall Street Journal reports.

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Facebook has been grappling with the effect its platform had in spreading fake news that may have swayed the 2016 US election.

Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook removed all references to Russia from a public report in April concerning manipulation of its platform during the 2016 presidential election, according to a The Wall Street Journal report Thursday.

Mentions of Russia were eliminated due to concerns among Facebook's lawyers and members of its policy team that the company's understanding of Russian activity was too speculative, the newspaper reported. Ultimately, Facebook published a 13-page report on fake news on the platform and the steps it was taking to combat the problem after being shortened by several pages, the Journal reported.

The report didn't mention Russia at all, instead concluding that "malicious actors" used false information to sway political opinions on the social network.

Facebook said the decision to omit Russia from the report was based on a desire for caution.

"At the time that we published the white paper we were not in a position to know for sure who was behind the activity that we described and we did not feel comfortable making a definitive attribution," Facebook said in a statement.

The abundance of fake news on the internet in the lead-up to President Donald Trump's victory last year has become a hot-button issue, entangling tech giants like Facebook and Google. Numerous allegations say the fake news shared on the social networks helped Trump win.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially called such a suggestion "a pretty crazy idea," but Facebook has since made it easier to report possible hoaxes, add warnings before you share a disputed article and downplay questionable stories in your news feed.

The revelation comes a month after Facebook said it identified about 500 "inauthentic accounts" that bought $100,000 worth of ads that targeted highly politicized social issues such as immigration, guns and LGBT rights. Facebook has sent records of the ads to government investigators looking into Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

Facebook's disclosure marked a new turn in the high-profile Russia investigation, which has raised issues concerning President Donald Trump's election last year, the involvement of his children and the actions of his staff. At issue is how much the Russian government may have attempted to influence the electorate, and whether Trump or anyone working for him was knowingly involved. Trump has repeatedly denied involvement.

First published Oct. 5, 7:32 p.m. PT.
Updated, Oct. 6 at 7:20 a.m. PT: Adds Facebook statement.

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