Facebook launches 'election integrity initiative' to fight hacking and fake news

Amid questions about the social network's impact on last year's American presidential vote, Facebook Canada is launching an "election integrity initiative" in advance of the next Canadian federal election.

Campaign includes 'cyber hygiene guide' for candidates and parties

The last American presidential campaign raised new concerns about online threats to the political process. (Reuters)

Amid concerns about online threats to the democratic process, Facebook Canada is launching an "election integrity initiative" in advance of the next Canadian federal election.

The last American election was disrupted by the release of hacked emails from Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. The campaign of French President Emmanuel Macron was also hacked earlier this year.

Facebook has also been blamed for facilitating the spread of misinformation — the phenomenon of "fake news."

The first phase of Facebook Canada's initiative will include a "digital news literacy" campaign in partnership with MediaSmarts, training and guidance for political candidates, parties and staff to guard against security threats, and a new email hotline to report possible security breaches. 

As part of an announcement on Thursday, Facebook published a "cyber hygiene guide" for Canadian politicians and political parties.

"At Facebook, we take our responsibilities seriously and are committed to do our part to guard against these potential cyber threats," said Kevin Chan, head of public policy for Facebook Canada.

Chan added that the social network is working to crack down on malicious attempts to spread misinformation via Facebook and will require new transparency for advertising on the platform.

"I'm absolutely delighted to see Facebook and MediaSmarts taking a step in the right direction today in addressing the challenges of the digital era and the continued protection of our democratic process," Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould said at an event in Ottawa. "But I also want to reiterate that this is a conversation that does not stop here. There is much more to be done."

In her prepared remarks, Gould noted social media's tendency to create partisan echo chambers.

In the wake of the American example, the Liberal government asked the Communications Security Establishment, the federal agency responsible for information security, to review the potential threats to Canada's political system and advise political parties on cybersecurity.

In June, the CSE released its report and warned that it expects attempts to interfere with or influence the next federal election.


Aaron Wherry

Senior writer

Aaron Wherry has covered Parliament Hill since 2007 and has written for Maclean's, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. He is the author of Promise & Peril, a book about Justin Trudeau's years in power.