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Facebook Inc.'s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg speaks during the Digital-Life-Design (DLD) conference on Jan. 20, 2019 in Munich, southern Germany.

LINO MIRGELER/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook Inc. has launched German initiatives to defend election integrity and examine the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI), its operations chief said on Sunday, seeking to convince skeptics it is serious about privacy and democracy.

The world’s largest social network had a tough 2018 as it was buffeted by revelations that British consultancy Cambridge Analytica had improperly acquired data on millions of its U.S. users to target election advertising.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg has been grilled by lawmakers on the data lapses and, according to newspaper reports, U.S. regulators are discussing fining Facebook for violating a binding agreement to protect the privacy of its users.

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“We are not the same company that we were in 2016 or even a year ago,” chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg told the DLD Munich technology conference.

“We have a fundamentally different approach to how we run our company today.”

In Germany, Facebook is relatively less popular among users than in other Western countries, partly owing to privacy concerns dating back to its history of Nazi and Communist rule in the 20th century.

Ms. Sandberg said Facebook had struck a new partnership with Germany’s federal cyber-security office to help to uphold the integrity of elections and would also commit US$7.5-million toward research into the ethics of (AI) at the Technical University in Munich.

Facebook uses AI to spot and remove terrorist content and hate speech before it is reported to its 30,000 moderators, Ms. Sandberg said, adding it is also important to ensure that the technology is managed to prevent bias.

“We have to get this right; this is too important,” she said.

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