Facebook is preparing to open an elections integrity centre in Dublin in the coming months as it seeks to stem the tide of fake news on its platforms.
The team will be tasked with cracking down on misinformation, hate speech and voter suppression ahead of the European parliament elections in May.
The move comes as politicians on both sides of the Atlantic consider new regulatory approaches to curbing the abuse of social media platforms in political campaigns.
Facebook faced criticism last year for the role its messaging service WhatsApp allegedly played in spreading fake news ahead of the Brazilian presidential election.
The company said the centre in Dublin, and another in Singapore, would “allow our global teams to better work across regions in the run-up to elections, and will further strengthen our coordination and response time between staff in Menlo Park and in-country”.
It added: “These teams will add a layer of defense against fake news, hate speech and voter suppression, and will work cross-functionally with our threat intelligence, data science, engineering, research, community operations, legal and other teams.”
In a separate post, the company detailed the steps it was taking to protect the European parliament elections, including rolling out new tools to “make political advertising on Facebook more transparent”.
“Advertisers will need to be authorized before purchasing political ads and far more information about the ads themselves will be made available for people to see,” said the firm’s European elections policy manager Anika Geisel.
But the move came just a day after it emerged that new rules designed to restrict developers’ access to Facebook had thwarted efforts to keep tabs on political advertising on the site.
“In sum, they are actively trying to stop our project from gathering data about the ads they run, and the targeting of those ads,” WhoTargetsMe co-founder Sam Jeffers told The Guardian. “Obviously, we think this is the wrong decision.”
A Facebook spokesperson defended the move, describing it as “a routine update and applied to ad blocking and ad scraping plug-ins, which can expose people’s information to bad actors in ways they did not expect”.