Facebook India Managing Director and Vice President Ajit Mohan has written a blog post explaining exactly how the company has prepared for the Lok Sabha elections in India, including plans on tackling the problem of fake news and misinformation. The blog post comes after last week’s announcement where Facebook revealed that it removed a number of pages linked to the IT cell of Congress, and one linked to an Indian IT firm believed to work for the BJP government, over inauthentic behaviour.
In the latest blog post, Ajit Mohan reveals that Facebook has been working for close to 18 months to prepare for the Lok Sabha elections. The blog post explains how Facebook is working towards more transparency, especially when it comes to political advertisements.
The blog post reads, “One of the most important new product changes we’ve launched in this effort is our political ad transparency tools, giving people a clearer picture of who is placing the ads they see. Anyone who wants to run an ad in India related to politics has to first confirm their identity and location, and give more details about who paid for or published the ad.”
All political advertisements on Facebook are run with a “Paid for by” or “Published by” disclaimer. Facebook explained that these are housed in a searchable Ad Library for seven years, where any user can find information on the spend behind the ad as well as demographics of who viewed this.
Further the blog post says that Facebook plans to activate new regional operations centers, focused on election integrity in Singapore and Dublin.
“These teams include engineers, operations specialists and data scientists, and will work closely with staff in our Menlo Park, CA headquarters, as well as with local experts in Delhi. This structure helps strengthen our global coordination and speed our response times, adding another layer of defense against false news, misinformation, hate speech and voter suppression,” writes the Facebook India Vice President.
The blog post also talks of how Facebook is using artificial intelligence and machine learning to fight interference. The company claims to have blocked or removed approximately one million accounts a day, though it is not explained whether this is particular to India or globally.
Facebook says they have added 24 new languages — including 16 for India — to their automatic translation system as well to help identify such content, accounts.
On fighting fake news, the blog post reads, “we’ve also expanded our partnerships with third-party fact-checkers to seven accredited organizations in India. These groups cover eight of the most spoken languages — English, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Gujarati — and we’re looking to add more.”
Facebook says it is working with institutes like Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) and Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) to develop training workshops on digital literacy, including how to spot false news and identify misinformation during election campaigns.
The blog post says that if an article is found to be false, fact-checkers write an article that reports on the actual facts at hand and these are included as Related Articles immediately below a story in News Feed. The company also claims it is showing debunked articles lower in people’s News feed, though it did not confirm whether links which are proved to have fake news actually get blocked or not.
Facebook also said they are working with the Election Commission of India (ECI) and are joined other social media companies in a voluntary code of ethics for the general elections. Measures undertaken include a dedicated communications channel for notice and take down after receiving valid legal order, processing of valid requests in the blackout period ahead of voting and voter education efforts.
The social network is also helping policymakers, candidates and their staff improve cybersecurity for their accounts to protect against hacking or abuse as Facebook believe these are at higher risk of abuse and threats during these times.
Facebook also says it will encourage voters to go out and vote with a ‘Share You Voted’ campaign and has a new “Candidate Connect” feature, which is designed to give voters accurate information and help them learn more about different candidates.
“We are absolutely committed to maintaining the integrity of the elections in India and will continue to work with local organizations, government groups and experts to make that happen,” concludes the blog.