With the Election Commission announcing dates for polls in five states and Lok Sabha elections scheduled for 2019, social media giant Facebook plans to implement a version of the political ads transparency portal in India.
Facebook ads with political content in the US came under sharp criticism after reports that foreigners bought political ads on the platform to influence the 2016 presidential election. Beginning May 2018, political ads were viewable in a public advertisement archive and included information about funding. And advertisers of political content have to go through an authorisation process before displaying ads.
The transparency portal is currently deployed in the US and Brazil and is being rolled out in England in the next few weeks. Facebook is currently determining the form in which the political ads system will be implemented in India, according to Facebook’s Richard Allen, who is vice president, Global Policy Solutions.
“We will have to do the same work analysing for India what the risks are and then have a policy that tries to capture the risks,” Allen said. “(For) elections, there are general principles. Our principles are we want our platform for free and fair elections. But we don’t want people to abuse that.”
According to him, one of the difficulties was distinguishing news sources and political propaganda disguised as news sources. Because targeted ads were of broad categories and not just about political parties, Facebook decided to broaden the US ad policy to all content of political and national importance, Allen said.
In contrast, the platform in the UK will only look at advertising related to the main political parties, he said.
To make counterpart launches in the run-up to India’s election, the internal team will work with outside agencies. The task force will include security experts, community operations, and specialists who work with political parties. Along with the task-force in Delhi, scores of workers will help monitor advertisements and content, Allen said.