Facebook has rolled out a “pilot” program of new security tools for political campaigns — just weeks before millions of Americans go to the polls for the midterm elections.
The social networking giant said it’s targeting campaigns that “may be particularly vulnerable to targeting by hackers and foreign adversaries.”
Once enrolled, Facebook said it’ll help campaigns adopt stronger security protections, “like two-factor authentication and monitor for potential hacking threats,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, in a Monday blog post.
Facebook’s chief Mark Zuckerberg has admitted that the company “didn’t do enough” in the 2016 presidential election to prevent meddling and spreading misinformation, yet took a lashing from lawmakers for failing to step up in the midterms.
A former Obama campaign official told TechCrunch that the offering was important — but late.
“Fifty days is an eternity in campaign time,” said Harper Reed, who served as President Obama’s chief technology officer during the 2012 re-election campaign. “At this point, if [a campaign] has made gross security problems, they’ve already made them.”
But he questioned if now equipping campaigns with security tools will “actually solve the problem, or if it just solves Facebook’s PR problem.”
Facebook — like other tech giants — has been under the microscope in recent years after the social networking giant failed to prevent foreign meddling in the 2016 presidential election, in which adversaries — typically Russia — used the platform to spread disinformation.
The company’s done more to crack down on foreign interference campaigns after facing rebuke from lawmakers.
But ahead of the midterms, even the company’s former chief security officer was critical of Facebook. In an interview at Disrupt SF, Alex Stamos said that critical steps to protect the midterms hadn’t been taken in time.
“If there’s no foreign interference during the midterms, it’s not because we did a great job. It’s because our adversaries decided to [show] a little forbearance, which is unfortunate,” said Stamos.
Facebook, for its part, said its latest rollout of security tools “might be expanded to future elections and other users” beyond the midterms.
“Hacking is a part of elections,” said Reed. But with just two months to go before voters go to the polls, campaigns “have to just keep doing what they’re doing,” he said.