As the 2020 campaign gains speed, Facebook is taking measures to protect against foreign interference and stop the spread of misinformation. Social media is a fertile space for civic participation, and Facebook is at the forefront of encouraging civil discourse. But with the company’s huge platform comes huge responsibility.
Five women across Facebook and Instagram — Katie Harbath, Sarah Schiff, Monica Lee, Antonia Woodford, and Crystal Patterson — are key to ensuring the integrity of the 2020 election on Facebook. Behind the scenes, these women have helped overhaul the company’s approach to protecting elections, creating a new ad library to ensure transparency and partnering with over 55 third party fact-checking organizations. With just under a year until the election, Teen Vogue spoke with Facebook to learn more about what they’ve been up to.
Katie Harbath, Director, Global Elections
Katie Harbath works with over 40 teams across Facebook to help protect elections around the globe and promote civic engagement, assessing the risks each contest could face and developing tools and programs to address them. Katie started at Facebook nine years ago, supporting elected officials and candidates during the 2012 U.S. presidential election. In 2013, she started building out the elections team. It now includes more than 500 people.
Q: What are your biggest takeaways from the 2016 election with regard to Facebook? What is the single biggest goal for Facebook with regard to the 2020 election?
We’re a different company than we were in 2016, including when it comes to elections. We could have done more, back then, to prevent the spread of misinformation, stop foreign interference and provide transparency around political ads. So we made a commitment to do better. The last three years, we’ve transformed our approach to elections. We’ve taken down content and ads from people in other countries trying to run political ads in the US. We block millions of fake accounts every day. We launched an Ad Library so people can see every political ad running on Facebook. Protecting the 2020 election is a big responsibility, but now we have the people, tools and policies to do it.
Q: How can Facebook ameliorate political tribalism and does it have a responsibility to?
There’s always more to do. And we’re doing it. We recently launched Facebook News — a dedicated place for news on Facebook, giving people more control over the stories they see, and the ability to explore a wider range of their news interests, directly within the Facebook app.