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Facebook Meets With FBI to Discuss 2020 Election Security

Full-day meetings were arranged to discuss how tech companies like Facebook are preparing for election-related security issues, including government-backed online disinformation campaigns similar to the one Russia orchestrated ahead of the 2016 U.S. election

(Bloomberg) -- Executives from Facebook Inc. and Google met with U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday to discuss the technology industry’s security efforts leading up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election, according to a person familiar with the talks.

The gathering, which is taking place at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, included staff members from the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said the person, who asked not to be named because the talks haven’t been publicly disclosed. Representatives from Twitter Inc. and Microsoft Corp. were also in attendance.

The full-day meetings were arranged to discuss how tech companies like Facebook are preparing for election-related security issues, including government-backed online disinformation campaigns similar to the one Russia orchestrated ahead of the 2016 U.S. election. In June, a senior Trump administration official told reporters that Russia, China, and Iran are all trying to influence public opinion ahead of the 2020 elections. Facebook has taken down coordinated influence campaigns originating from all three countries in the past year.

Attendees at Wednesday’s meeting will also discuss plans for better coordination of security efforts between tech companies and government agencies -- something that didn’t happen in 2016. Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, was leading the meeting, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Facebook has been heavily criticized for propagating past disinformation campaigns, and it has also been the most vocal about changes it’s making to protect its network around elections. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has said repeatedly that security is a top priority at the social network, and Facebook has hired thousands of content reviewers and security-related personnel to better monitor its service. Ahead of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, Facebook also created a “war room” at its headquarters to more quickly respond to issues in the weeks leading up to election day.

Facebook and other tech companies also have added more restrictions on political advertising after foreign agents used their platforms to buy ads in 2016. Facebook now requires verification and documentation from political advertisers, and launched a public database of all the political ads it runs. Twitter and Google have also added an application process for political advertisers.

Representatives for Microsoft and Twitter confirmed their attendance at Wednesday’s meeting, and one U.S. intelligence official described the meeting as an effort to establish "shared goals" between the tech community and the government.

"We always welcome the opportunity to spend time with our peer companies and the government agencies tasked with protecting the integrity of the 2020 election," a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. "This is a joint effort in response to a shared threat, and we are committed to doing our part."

A spokeswoman for the DNI declined to comment. Google -- along with the FBI and DHS -- didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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