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Facebook says $13B spent on 'safety and security' since 2016

Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Facebook said Tuesday it has spent $13 billion on 'safety and security,' amid recent scrutiny.

The social media company's statement Tuesday comes after an investigative series by The Wall Street Journal recently found "its platforms are riddled with flaws that cause harm."

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The Journal further said documents show that the company was aware of "the platform's ill effects," but "the company didn't fix them."

One article in the Journal series noted that Facebook's photo-sharing app Instagram is harmful to teen girls' body image and well-being, but said the company has downplayed the negative effects. Facebook has also said there was not an easy fix to some of the problems.

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In its statement Tuesday, Facebook said the scrutiny lacked "important context."

"There is a lot more to the story," the statement said. "What is getting lost in this discussion is some of the important progress we've made as a company and the positive impact that it is having across many key areas."

Facebook highlighted its efforts, including $13 billion invested in teams and technology focused on safety and security since 2016, along with 40,000 people working in the area.

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The $13 billion figure supports a statement Facebook made in 2018 to spend billions per years to fix its problems in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal involving targeted digital political advertising used during the 2016 presidential election.

Among other efforts, since 2017, the company's security teams have disrupted 150 covert influence operations.

Its advanced artificial intelligence has also improved since then, now proactively removing about 95% of hate speech from Facebook compared with 24% in 2017.

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Facebook also emphasized its efforts to remove COVID-19 misinformation, including removing more than 20 million pieces of false COVID-19 and vaccine content.

The company said it has also built a global network of more than 80 independent fact-checking partners who rate the accuracy of posts across its apps, and it has displayed warnings on more than 190 million pieces of COVID-19 misinformation.

Facebook also said it has helped 2 billion people find credible COVID-19 information through its Information Center and News Feed pop-ups.

In a statement over the weekend, Facebook's Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg refuted the Journal article more directly.

"These are serious and complex issues, and it is absolutely legitimate for us to be held to account for how we deal with them," Clegg wrote in the post. "But these stories have contained deliberate mischaracterizations of what we are trying to do, and conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook's leadership and employees."

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