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Facebook’s Zuckerberg Says Macedonia Spreading ‘Fake News’


By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Facebook users from Macedonia spread fake news to try to swing the outcome of a tight US Senate race in Alabama, Mark Zuckerberg has told the ‘New York Times’.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told The New York Times on Thursday that Macedonia had become involved in the spread of fake news.

Discussing the scandal involving British data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica obtaining access to more than 50 million Facebook users’ data in 2014, he said:

“We deployed some new A.I. tools to identify fake accounts and false news, and we found a significant number of Macedonian accounts that were trying to spread false news.”

He told the newspaper that Facebook was “able to eliminate those” accounts, however.

Zuckerberg did not go into more details about the content of the fake news from Macedonian users, but said they concerned attempts to skew the result of a tight Senate race in the state of Alabama.

The December 12 elections in the southern US state saw a close race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore.

Jones went on to win, becoming the first Democrat to win a US Senate race in the state in 25 years.

The race also drew attention due to the slew of fake news surrounding the campaign, much of which centred on falsely accusating black voters in the state of election fraud. Black voters in the US normally vote Democrat.

Other fake items attacked women who had accused Moore of harassment and assaults when he was a county prosecutor in the late 1970s and 1980s, which he denied.

This is not the first time that Macedonia has found itself in the spotlight related to the spread of fake news on social media.

In 2016, the central town of Veles became infamous for the lucrative online ventures of some of its younger inhabitants, who used the US presidential election to earn money by promoting fake or misleading news in support of Donald Trump.

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Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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