Facebook gears up for Elections 2019 by combatting misinformation and increasing transparency

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Facebook is working to prevent abuse on services, during elections with more transparency, combating misinformation and promoting civic engagement.

18 Months of Planning

As Indians prepare to vote in the General Election for the 17th Lok Sabha, Facebook and the family of apps continue their efforts to help make sure the elections are fair and free from interference, both foreign and domestic.

This work is done across dozens of teams, both in India and around the globe, and began more than 18 months ago with a detailed planning and risk assessment across platforms. The findings allowed them to concentrate their work on key areas, including blocking and removing fake accounts; fighting the spread of misinformation; stopping abuse by domestic actors; spotting attempts at foreign meddling; and taking action against inauthentic coordinated campaigns.

More Transparency, More Resources

One of the most important new product changes they’ve launched in this effort is their 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.

They then run the ad with a “Paid for by” or “Published by” disclaimer and house it in a searchable Ad Library for seven years. Here, anyone can find information on the spend behind the ad as well as demographics of who saw it.

Building on lessons learned over the past two years, this week they will 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 Menlo Park, CA headquarters, as well as with local experts in Delhi. This structure helps strengthen global coordination and speed response times, adding another layer of defense against false news, misinformation, hate speech and voter suppression.

They are also using artificial intelligence and machine learning to fight interference. For example, these tools help block or remove approximately one million accounts a day. They also help identify abusive or violating content, quickly locate it across the platform and remove it in bulk. This reduces its ability to spread. They continue to expand on this initiative, adding 24 new languages — including 16 for India — to their automatic translation system.

And last week, they removed nearly 700 Pages, Groups and accounts in India for violating Facebook’s policies on coordinated inauthentic behavior and spam.

Combating Misinformation

In recent months, they’ve also expanded 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 they’re looking to add more.

This partnership work extends to other media groups, as well — such as Indian Institute of Mass Communication and the Asian College of Journalism — to develop training workshops on digital literacy, including how to spot false news and identify misinformation during election campaigns.

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When fact-checkers find a story to be false, they’ll write an article that reports on the actual facts at hand. They include these articles as Related Articles immediately below a story in News Feed. They also show the debunked articles lower in people’s feed. They’ve unveiled new designs in India for this product, customized specifically for audiences to help people better identify posts that have been reviewed by fact-checkers. They also send people and Page admins notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been marked false.

And Facebook encourages people to tell them when they see false news — this feedback is one of the various signals that we use to identify potential hoaxes.

Working Together with Election Commission

Promoting election integrity in India isn’t something Facebook can do alone. They recently joined other social media companies in a voluntary code of ethics for the general elections with the Election Commission of India (ECI). It includes measures like 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. This builds on the ongoing dialogue we’ve had with the commission, as well as with the campaigns and political parties.

They’ve also created a training process to help policymakers, candidates and their staff improve their cybersecurity and awareness for how their accounts could be hacked or abused. During elections, times of conflict or political turmoil, these accounts can be at higher risk of threats and abuse, so Facebook help them learn how to be proactive and look for signals that their accounts could be harmed.

Promoting More Civic Engagement

Facebook recently launched two new products in India to help people learn about issues they care about and engage with candidates and elected officials in meaningful ways. “Candidate Connect” is designed to give voters accurate information and help people learn more about different candidates. And “Share You Voted” lets people share with friends that they’ve cast their ballot in the Lok Sabha elections. The products have been customized, based on what we’ve learned from local research, including the community’s desire to hear directly from their candidates.

Facebook is working towards maintaining the integrity of the elections in India and will work with local organizations, government groups and experts to make that happen.


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