March 31, 2021 8:00:11 pm
Facebook is securing its platforms ahead of the state elections in India and has announced the measures it will be taking during this period. Ahead of the elections in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry, the company is implementing new tools to support and protect these important elections.
Facebook claims the steps will enhance civic engagement, combat hate speech, limit misinformation and remove voter suppression. The company also plans on working with election authorities to set up a high priority channel to remove content that breaks the rules against local law after receiving valid legal orders. It has previously come under criticism for not acting against hate speech in India and in other countries.
Combating hate speech, demoting likely hate speech
Facebook says it will be removing content, which violates its policy on hate speech as soon as the company becomes aware of it. It will implement proactive detection technology to catch violating content quickly.
To decrease the risk of problematic content going viral in these states, which can potentially incite violence ahead of or during the election, Facebook will reduce the distribution of content, which the proactive detection technology identifies as likely hate speech or violence and incitement. The content will be removed if determined to violate policies, but its distribution will remain reduced until that determination is made.
Facebook will remove certain slurs that it determines as hate speech. “To complement that effort, we may deploy technology to identify new words and phrases associated with hate speech, and either remove posts with that language or reduce their distribution,” it said.
Improving efforts to reduce repeat offender content
In addition to Facebook’s standard practice of removing accounts that repeatedly violate Community Standards, it will also temporarily reduce the distribution of content from accounts that have recently and repeatedly violated policies.
Third-party fact-checking to limit misinformation
Facebook will be working with third-party fact-checkers around the world, including eight partners in India who are certified by the International Fact-Checking Network, to provide people with additional context about the content they’re seeing on the platform. When a fact-checker rates a story as false, Facebook will label the content and show it lower in the News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.
Voter suppression policy reinforcement
Facebook will prohibit voter interference, defined as objectively verifiable statements. These include misrepresentation of dates and methods for voting (e.g., text to vote). Facebook will also remove offers to buy or sell votes with cash or gifts. Claims that you will contract COVID-19 if you vote will also be removed.
Voluntary Code of Ethics with the Election Commission of India
Facebook has set up a high priority channel with ECI for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, to receive content-related escalations in 2019 led by the industry body IAMAI. The platform will be implementing the same Voluntary Code for this election as well.
Enhanced civic engagement
Facebook has designed Election Day reminders to give voters accurate information and encourage them to share this information with friends on Facebook and WhatsApp.
Educating users about staying safe on WhatsApp
“In our continuous endeavour to keep users safe and tackle misinformation, WhatsApp specifically rolls out public education campaigns and digital literacy trainings to build awareness about refraining from forwarding frequently forwarded messages, turning on group permissions to help decide which groups to join, reporting or blocking a suspicious contact or number, and prohibiting bulk or automated messages,” Facebook added.
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