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Facebook to curb foreign political ads in run-up to Indon poll

Move follows heavy criticism by EU for not doing enough to counter election meddling

Jakarta

FACEBOOK has banned political advertisements from outside Indonesia ahead of the country's presidential poll, just weeks after being heavily criticised by the European Union (EU) for not doing enough to counter election meddling.

The ban took effect on Tuesday.

The world's biggest social network said it was temporarily restricting all paid material from advertisers based outside the South-east Asian nation related to politicians, parties or attempts at voter suppression.

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Facebook said: "We want to make it harder to interfere with elections, and easier for people to make their voices legitimately heard in the political process."

EU officials had blasted the company earlier this year for not doing enough to scrutinise advertising on its site in the run-up to the EU elections in May.

In response, the company unveiled new tools and rules that would require a wide range of political ads linked to the elections to be specifically authorised and tagged with a clear "paid for by" disclaimer.

The US firm began looking into its influence on elections after revelations of Russian influence campaigns during the 2016 US election, but has been accused by some leaders of being too slow to act.

Facebook said it would use a combination of automated and human intervention to remove offending ads relating to Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Indonesia is battling its own wave of online hate speech, as conservative groups exploit social media to spread lies and target minorities. The authorities are worried inflammatory material posted online could crack open social and religious fault lines in the world's largest Muslim-majority country ahead of presidential elections in April.

Facebook said in February that it had removed hundreds of accounts and pages linked to Indonesian cyber group Saracen, which has been accused of spreading hate speech and fake news.

Facebook has a fact-checking partnership with AFP in multiple countries. AFP