Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

As U.S. Confronts Internet’s Disruptions, China Feels Vindicated

October 17, 2017

HULUNBUIR, China — In the United States, some of the world’s most powerful technology companies face rising pressure to do more to fight false information and stop foreign infiltration.

China, however, has watchdogs like Zhao Jinxu.

From his small town on the windswept grasslands of the Inner Mongolia region of China, Mr. Zhao, 27, scours the internet for fake news, pornography and calls to violence. He is one of a battalion of online “supervisors” whom Weibo, one of China’s biggest social media platforms, announced last month it would hire to help enforce China’s stringent limits on online content.

For years, the United States and others saw this sort of heavy-handed censorship as a sign of political vulnerability and a barrier to China’s economic development. But as countries in the West discuss potential internet restrictions and wring their hands over fake news, hacking and foreign meddling, some in China see a powerful affirmation of the country’s vision for the internet.

“This kind of thing would not happen here,” Mr. Zhao said of the controversy over Russia’s influence in the American presidential election last year.

Besides Communist Party loyalists, few would argue that China’s internet control serves as a model for democratic societies. China squelches online dissent and imprisons many of those who practice it. It blocks foreign news and information, including the website of The New York Times, and promotes homegrown technology companies while banning global services like Facebook and Twitter.

At the same time, China anticipated many of the questions now flummoxing governments from the United States to Germany to Indonesia. Where the Russians have turned the internet into a political weapon, China has used it as a shield.

In fact, when it comes to technology, China has prospered. It has a booming technology culture. Its internet companies rival Facebook and Amazon in heft. To other countries, China may offer an enticing top-down model that suggests that technology can thrive even under the government’s thumb.

An electronic display showing recent cyberattacks in China at the China Internet Security Conference in Beijing last month. Credit Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

“It doesn’t matter how efficient the internet is,” said Zhu Wei, deputy director of the Communications Law Research Center at the China University of Political Science and Law, which advises the government on internet laws. “It won’t work without security.”

China is not resting on its laurels.

In the weeks leading up to the major party congress that opens in Beijing on Wednesday, the country’s internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, has issued a raft of new regulations.

One, which took effect last week, holds the creators of online forums or group chats responsible for their users’ comments.

Another bans anonymous users, a blow at the bots and deceptive accounts — like those on Facebook and Twitter — that distributed false stories aimed at American voters.

“If our party cannot traverse the hurdle presented by the internet, it cannot traverse the hurdle of remaining in power,” a department of the cyberspace administration wrote in a top party journal last month.

The article was in keeping with President Xi Jinping’s early recognition of the power of the internet. Mr. Xi created and empowered the cyberspace administration, which has subsumed many of the overlapping agencies that once governed content in cyberspace.

Read the rest:


Russia Has Turned Kaspersky Software Into Tool for Spying

October 11, 2017

Searches exploited popular Russian-made antivirus software to seek classified material, officials say

WASHINGTON—The Russian government used a popular antivirus software to secretly scan computers around the world for classified U.S. government documents and top-secret information, modifying the program to turn it into an espionage tool, according to current and former U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter.

The software, made by the Moscow-based company Kaspersky Lab, routinely scans files of computers on which it is installed looking for viruses and other malicious software. But in an adjustment to its normal operations…

Syrian opposition filmmaker stabbed in Istanbul

October 11, 2017


© AFP/File | Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey has become home to more than three million Syrian refugees, many of them opponents of the Assad regime

ISTANBUL (AFP) – A Syrian filmmaker close to the opposition who made a film about a notorious regime prison has been stabbed by an unknown assailant in Istanbul, supporters and Syrian groups said Wednesday.

Muhammad Bayazid was stabbed on Tuesday while on his way to a meeting, according to an account posted on the filmmaker’s official Facebook page by a friend who witnessed the attack.

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Muhammad Bayazid remains in intensive care after being stabbed in the chest on Tuesday evening (screengrab)

His wife Samah Safi Bayazid, who is also a filmmaker, confirmed the attack, describing it on her Facebook page as an “assassination attempt”. He was taken to hospital but his condition was not immediately clear.

Ahmad Ramadan, an official with the Syrian opposition in Istanbul, said Bayazid had produced a film about torture in a notorious Syrian prison.

He also described the attack as an “assassination attempt”.

Syrian opposition activists and journalists based in Turkey have repeatedly complained of threats to their security.

A veteran Syrian opposition activist and her journalist daughter were found stabbed to death at their apartment in Istanbul in September. However, a relative was later arrested on suspicion of the murder.

Supporters wrote on social media that Bayazid was working on a film about the notorious Tadmor prison in central Syria outside the ancient city of Palmyra.

It was there that hundreds of prisoners were massacred in 1980 under the presidency of Hafez al-Assad, the late father of current President Bashar al-Assad.

Bayazid’s upcoming film “The Tunnel” is based on the “true story” of a Syrian-American man who is unjustly imprisoned in Tadmor, its promoters said. Its first showing in Turkey was at the weekend.

Alibaba Sizes Up Facebook, Amazon With R&D Splurge

October 11, 2017

Spending will set up labs across the world to find the next big breakthrough

HANGZHOU—Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. says it will nearly triple spending on research and development, to more than $15 billion over the next three years, as it seeks to keep pace with Western rivals such as Alphabet Inc. and Inc.

Alibaba started as an online marketplace but has since moved into cloud computing and artificial-intelligence initiatives. In the previous three years, its spending on research and development was about $6 billion—a fraction of what major U.S. tech companies spend.

As part of the spending initiative, Alibaba chief technology officer Jeff Zhang will lead a new research unit called the DAMO Academy—an acronym for discovery, adventure, momentum and outlook—that will establish research and development labs world-wide, including one in cooperation with the University of California, Berkeley.

The academy, which will also include advisers from universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University and Peking University, will fund research into areas such as data analytics, quantum computing, and machine learning.

“For any major internet company to remain competitive in future, they will have to invest in these technologies,” said Mark Natkin, managing director at Beijing-based consultancy Marbridge Consulting.

Alibaba’s investment comes as the competition to attract the best talent globally ramps up.

Google parent Alphabet, and Facebook Inc. are increasing spending and racing to find and retain researchers in search of the next big breakthrough.

According to corporate filings, Alphabet spent $13.9 billion on research and development in 2016, about 16% of its revenues. Amazon spent $16 billion in the same period.

In contrast, Alibaba spent 17.1 billion yuan ($2.6 billion) on research and development in its last financial year ending March 2017, or about 11% of its 158.3 billion yuan in annual revenues.

Alibaba said it plans to hire 100 researchers for its new academy, which will open in seven locations, including two in the U.S.—San Mateo, Calif. and Bellevue, Wash.

In a speech in its headquarters city of Hangzhou, Alibaba chairman Jack Ma paid tribute to the tech giants that he’s trying to outdo. “We’ll learn from the work of IBM, Microsoft and Dell—but we’ll walk our own path.”

“Alibaba has lasted 18 years; It should last another 84 years,” Mr. Ma said. “That means DAMO should last at least 85 years,” a reference to his oft-repeated hope that Alibaba, founded in 1999, would span three centuries.

—Chuin-Wei Yap contributed to this article.

Write to Liza Lin at

Spy vs spy vs spy as Israel watches Russian hackers: NYT

October 11, 2017


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© AFP/File | The Russian intrusion detected more than two years ago used anti-virus software manufactured by the Russian firm Kaspersky Lab as an ad hoc global search tool, The New York Times said

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Israeli spies observed Russian government hackers in real time as they scoured computers around the world for the codenames of US intelligence programs, The New York Times reported Tuesday night.

The Russian intrusion detected more than two years ago used anti-virus software manufactured by the Russian firm Kaspersky Lab as an ad hoc global search tool, the Times said, quoting current and former government officials.

The software is used by 400 million people around the world, including by officials at some two dozen American government agencies, the Times reported.

Israeli intelligence had hacked into the Kaspersky network and upon detecting the Russian intrusion, alerted the United States. This led to a decision last month for Kaspersky software to be removed from US government computers, the Times said.

It is known that Russian hackers stole classified documents from a National Security Agency employee who had stored them on his home computer which featured Kaspersky antivirus software, the paper said.

It said that it is not yet publicly known what other secrets the Russians may have obtained from US government agencies by using Kaspersky software as “a sort of Google search for sensitive information.”

The Times said Kaspersky Lab denied any knowledge of or involvement in the Russian hacking.


How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring the World for U.S. Secrets


Image result for Russia's FSB intelligence service, photos

Kaspersky Software Used by Russian Government to Steal NSA Hacking Tools, Say Israeli Spies: Reports

Kaspersky Software Used by Russian Government to Steal NSA Hacking Tools, Say Israeli Spies: Reports


  • Israeli spies have found Russian government using Kaspersky
  • The spies had previously warned their US counterparts of intrusion
  • US has already banned the use of Kaspersky in its defence domain

Israeli intelligence officials spying on Russian government hackers found they were using Kaspersky Labantivirus software that is also used by 400 million people globally, including US government agencies, according to media reports on Tuesday.

The Israeli officials who had hacked into Kaspersky’s network over two years ago then warned their US counterparts of the Russian intrusion, said The New York Times, which first reported the story.

That led to a decision in Washington only last month to order Kaspersky software removed from government computers.

The Washington Post also reported on Tuesday that the Israeli spies had also found in Kaspersky’s network hacking tools that could only have come from the US National Security Agency.

After an investigation, the NSA found that those tools were in possession of the Russian government, the Post said.

And late last month, the US National Intelligence Council completed a classified report that it shared with NATO allies concluding that Russia’s FSB intelligence service had “probable access” to Kaspersky customer databases and source code, the Post reported.

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Russian intelligence services — the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and the FSB

That access, it concluded, could help enable cyber attacks against US government, commercial and industrial control networks, the Post reported.

The New York Times said the Russian operation, according to multiple people briefed on the matter, is known to have stolen classified documents from a National Security Agency employee who had improperly stored them on his home computer, which had Kaspersky antivirus software installed on it.

It is not yet publicly known what other US secrets the Russian hackers may have discovered by turning the Kaspersky software into a sort of Google search for sensitive information, the Times said.

The current and former government officials who described the episode spoke about it on condition of anonymity because of classification rules, the Times said.

The newspaper said the National Security Agency and the White House declined to comment, as did the Israeli Embassy, while the Russian Embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

The Russian embassy in Washington last month called the ban on Kaspersky Lab software “regrettable” and said it delayed the prospects of restoring bilateral ties.

Kaspersky Lab denied to the Times any knowledge of, or involvement in, the Russian hacking. “Kaspersky Lab has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

Eugene Kaspersky, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, has repeatedly denied charges his company conducts espionage on behalf of the Russian government.

Kaspersky spokeswoman Sarah Kitsos told the Washington Post on Tuesday that “as a private company, Kaspersky Lab does not have inappropriate ties to any government, including Russia, and the only conclusion seems to be that Kaspersky Lab is caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight.” She said the company “does not possess any knowledge” of Israel’s hack, the Post said.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a multipronged digital influence operation last year in an attempt to help Donald Trump win the White House, a charge Moscow denies.

Google uncovers Russian-bought ads on YouTube, Gmail and other platforms

October 9, 2017

By  Elizabeth Dwoskin and Adam Entous
The Washington Post

October 9 at 7:00 AM

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Google found tens of thousands of dollars were spent on ads by Russian agents who aimed to spread disinformation across Google’s platforms.(Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

SAN FRANCISCO — Google for the first time has uncovered evidence that Russian operatives exploited the company’s platforms in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the company’s investigation.

The Silicon Valley giant has found that tens of thousands of dollars were spent on ads by Russian agents who aimed to spread disinformation across Google’s many products, which include YouTube, as well as advertising associated with Google search, Gmail, and the company’s DoubleClick ad network, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that have not been made public. Google runs the world’s largest online advertising business, and YouTube is the world’s largest online video site.

The discovery by Google is also significant because the ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated troll farm that bought ads on Facebook — a sign that the Russian effort to spread disinformation online may be a much broader problem than Silicon Valley companies have unearthed so far.

Google previously downplayed the problem of Russian meddling on its platforms. Last month, Google spokeswoman Andrea Faville told The Washington Post that the company is “always monitoring for abuse or violations of our policies and we’ve seen no evidence this type of ad campaign was run on our platforms.”

Nevertheless, Google launched an investigation into the matter, as Congress pressed technology companies to determine how Russian operatives used social media, online advertising, and other digital tools to influence the 2016 presidential contest and foment discord in U.S. society.

Google declined to provide a comment for this story. The people familiar with its investigation said that the company is looking at a set of ads that cost less than $100,000 and that it is still sorting out whether all of the ads came from trolls or whether some originated from legitimate Russian accounts.

To date, Google has mostly avoided the scrutiny that has fallen on its rival Facebook. The social network recently shared about 3,000 Russian-bought ads with Congressional investigators that were purchased by operatives associated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian-government affiliated troll farm, the company has said.

Some of the ads, which cost a total of about $100,000, touted Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and the Green party candidate Jill Stein during the campaign, people familiar with those ads said. Other ads appear to have been aimed at fostering division in United States by promoting anti-immigrant sentiment and racial animosity. Facebook has said those ads reached just 10 million of the 210 million U.S. users that log onto the service each month.

At least one outside researcher has said that the influence of Russian disinformation on Facebook is much greater than the company has so far  acknowledged and encompasses paid ads as well as posts published on Facebook pages controlled by Russian agents. The posts were shared hundreds of millions of times, said Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

In a blog post, Facebook wrote it is also looking at an additional 2,200 ads that may have not come from the Internet Research Agency.

“We also looked for ads that might have originated in Russia — even those with very weak signals of a connection and not associated with any known organized effort,” the company wrote last month. “This was a broad search, including, for instance, ads bought from accounts with US IP addresses but with the language set to Russian — even though they didn’t necessarily violate any policy or law. In this part of our review, we found approximately $50,000 in potentially politically related ad spending on roughly 2,200 ads.”

Meanwhile, Twitter said that it shut down 201 accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency. It also disclosed that the account for the news site RT, which the company linked to the Kremlin, spent $274,100 on its platform in 2016. Twitter has not said how many times the Russian disinformation was shared. The company is investigating that matter and trying to map the relationship between Russian accounts and well-known media personalities as well as influencers associated with the campaigns of Donald Trump and other candidates, said a person familiar with Twitter’s internal investigation. RT also has a sizeable presence on YouTube.

Twitter declined to comment for this story.

Executives for Facebook and Twitter will testify before Congressional investigators on Nov. 1. Google has not said whether it will accept a similar invitation to do so.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russian president Vladmir Putin intervened in the U.S. election to help Donald Trump win. But Silicon Valley companies have received little assistance from the intelligence community, people familiar with the companies’ probes said.

Google discovered the Russian presence on its platforms by siphoning data from another technology company, Twitter, the people familiar with Google’s investigation said. Twitter offers outsiders the ability to access a small amount of historical tweets for free, and charges developers for access to the entire Twitter firehose of data stemming back to 2006.

Google downloaded the data from Twitter and was able to link Russian Twitter accounts to other accounts that had used Google’s services to buy ads, the people said. This was done without the explicit cooperation of Twitter, the people said.

Google’s probe is still in its early stages, the people said. The number of ads posted and the number of times those ads were clicked on could not be learned. Google is continuing to examine its own records and is also sharing data with Facebook. Twitter and Google have not cooperated with one another in their investigations.


 (Maybe Facebook needs some ethics training)

British Police to tell social media firms to take down hate posts in major government crackdown

October 8, 2017

‘One stop shop’ for reporting online abuse to be established CREDIT: KACPER PEMPEL

Police officers will help victims of online hate crime to pressure Twitter and Facebook to take down abusive messages, Amber Rudd has said.

The Home Secretary pledged to establish an online hub that will allow internet users to lodge all reports of hate crime to drive up numbers of prosecutions.

Police will then help victims to refer “appropriate cases to online platforms hosting external content, such as social media companies, so that hateful material can be removed”, the Home Office has said.

Twitter and Facebook have been under fire for not doing enough to deal with so-called trolls who send abusive messages to members of the public.

This “one stop shop” for reporting online abuse will be run by police officers for the National Police Chiefs’ Council who will work to ensure online cases are managed efficiently.

Amber Rudd delivers her speech on the third day of the Conservative Party annual conference 
Amber Rudd has pledged to help internet users lodge reports of hate crimes CREDIT:  PAUL ELLIS

Ms Rudd said: “With the police, we will use this new intelligence to adapt our response so that even more victims are safeguarded and perpetrators punished. “Online hate crime is completely unacceptable. What is illegal offline is illegal online, and those who commit these cowardly crimes should be met with the full force of the law.

“The national online hate crime hub that we are funding is an important step to ensure more victims have the confidence to come forward and report the vile abuse to which they are being subjected.

“The hub will also improve our understanding of the scale and nature of this despicable form of abuse.”

The new hub will allow victims to see which police force is responsible for their case, removing any uncertainty when victims and perpetrators are in different parts of the UK.

Specialist officers will provide expert case management and better support and advice to victims of online hate crime.

The hub will ensure all online cases are properly investigated and will help to increase prosecutions, the Home Office said. Victims will be kept updated throughout, as police forces seek to bring perpetrators to justice, officials said.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, the hate crimes lead at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “Hateful abuse online can leave victims with significant psychological harm, but can also lead to more serious physical offences, so police need to be able to intervene at the earliest possible stage to reassure victims that we will act to protect them.

“This new national hub will enable a small team of specialist officers to significantly improve the service we provide to victims, reduce the burden on front-line officers, and help bring more offenders to justice.

“We recognise and will uphold the right to free speech even where it causes offence – but this does not extend to inciting hatred or threatening people.”

It follows proposals announced by the Tories last week for internet companies to be forced to hand over the contact details of online trolls who anonymously abuse MPs.

Some Russia-linked Facebook ads sent to Congress also ran on Instagram

October 8, 2017


By Daniel Uria

Oct. 7 (UPI) — Some of the Russia-linked advertisements that ran on Facebook also appeared on the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app Instagram.

Facebook said in an update to a blog post made Friday that about 5 percent of the 3,000 ads it shared with Congress also appeared on Instagram, which the company acquired in 2012.

The social media company said about $6,700 were spent on the ads appearing on Instagram from 2015 to earlier this year.

It is unclear how many people viewed the ads on Instagram, but Facebook estimated about 10 million users saw the ads when they appeared on Facebook.

Facebook said the ads originated from a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency and violated the social network’s policies by using inauthentic accounts.

The company also said it plans to add 1,000 workers to its global ads review team and make additional investments in machine learning to flag and take down ads.
Related UPI Stories

Related here on Peace and Freedom:

Facebook Security Chief Warns of Dangers in Fake News Solutions

October 8, 2017


By Sarah Frier

  • Easy technical ‘fixes’ could have biased consequences, he says
  • Alex Stamos speaks in series of Twitter posts against media

Facebook Inc.’s chief security officer warned that the fake news problem is more complicated and dangerous to solve than the public thinks.

Alex Stamos

Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Alex Stamos, who’s handling the company’s investigation into Russia’s use of the social media platform ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, cautioned about hoping for technical solutions that he says could have unintended consequences of ideological bias.

It’s very difficult to spot fake news and propaganda using just computer programs, Stamos said in a series of Twitter posts on Saturday.

“Nobody of substance at the big companies thinks of algorithms as neutral,” Stamos wrote, adding that the media is simplifying the matter. “Nobody is not aware of the risks.”

The easy technical solutions would boil down to silencing topics that Facebook is aware are being spread by bots — which should only be done “if you don’t worry about becoming the Ministry of Truth” with machine learning systems “trained on your personal biases,” he said.

Stamos’s comments shed light on why Facebook added 1,000 more people review its advertising, rather than attempting an automated solution.

The company sent a note to advertisers telling them it would start to manually review ads targeted to people based on politics, religion, ethnicity or social issues. The company is trying to figure out how to monitor use of its system without censoring ideas, after the Russian government used fake accounts to spread political discord in the U.S. ahead of the election.

“A lot of people aren’t thinking hard about the world they are asking [Silicon Valley] to build,” Stamos wrote. “When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.”

Facebook has turned over more than 3,000 ads purchased by Russian entities to congressional investigators looking into Russian influence on the election. Twitter Inc.has said it gave the panels a roundup of advertisements by RT, formerly known as Russia Today, a TV network funded by the Russian government.

Officials from Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet Co.’s Google are set to testify to Congress on the matter on Nov. 1.

Facebook will invest $1 billion in Virginia — Gov. Terry McAuliffe: “I am proud to welcome Facebook.”

October 6, 2017


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Gov. Terry McAuliffe

Facebook will invest $1 billion in Virginia as part of its plans to establish a 970,000-square-foot data center at White Oak Technology Park in eastern Henrico. The data center will cost $750 million to build and more than $250 million will be invested for the construction of new renewable energy projects.

Facebook is expected to have 100 full-time employees when the data center comes online — probably in 2019 — and construction is expected to create thousands of jobs.

In his remarks, County Manager John Vithoulkas called the occasion one of Henrico’s most exciting.

“You’ve got one of the most recognized companies in the world that’s chosen to locate in Henrico,” Vithoulkas said in an interview.

The data center will include two buildings and a so-called admin area. Additional buildings may be developed later and Facebook has enough land for five buildings, said Facebook spokeswoman Lindsay Amos.

Facebook’s Henrico Data Center will be the company’s eighth in the United States. Rachel Peterson, Facebook’s director of data center strategy, said the Henrico facilities will be some of the most advanced, energy-efficient in the world.

“Henrico County is a great fit for our newest data center, and we look forward to being part of the community,” Peterson said in her remarks.

Vithoulkas said the county gave Facebook an $850,000 sewer connection credit on a total fee that would be upward of $2 million. Facebook will become one of the top taxpayers in the county and one of its top water users, Vithoulkas said.

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Facebook’s planned data center in Henrico county, Virginia

Facebook plans to use both water and air to keep the Henrico Data Center’s hardware cool. According to Facebook, its data centers use less water than typical data centers.

Vithoulkas said work at the data center will mostly consist of maintaining computers.

“It’s not the factory of yesterday,” Vithoulkas said. “It’s really about the building itself, which is massive, and the equipment in the building.”

In addition to the tax revenue and job impact, local leaders are banking on Facebook to play a role in the region’s schools, though what form that will take hasn’t been finalized.

Tyrone Nelson, the Henrico supervisor for the Varina District, which is home to Facebook’s site, said he was looking forward to seeing the impact Facebook would have on the community.

“The thing that excites me about Facebook is the constant care about investing in the community,” Nelson said.

Henrico has been laying the groundwork to lure Facebook.

Earlier this year, Henrico’s Board of Supervisors lowered the county’s tax rate on computers and equipment related to data centers.

In September, Henrico’s Planning Commission approved a development plan for a data center at White Oak of up to 2.5 million square feet code-named Project Echo.

As part of a new renewable energy tariff designed by Facebook and Dominion Energy Virginia, hundreds of millions will go toward the construction of solar facilities to help make the data center powered with 100 percent renewable energy.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe said the project is three years in the making and included a meeting on Monday in San Francisco to tie things up.

“I am proud to welcome Facebook to Henrico County, and we look forward to a strong partnership,” McAuliffe said.