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Headway made against election abuses: Facebook
Menlo Park, California
FACEBOOK has said that it has made strides in its efforts to prevent online abuses in the Indian national election that starts this week but acknowledged that gaps remain in its "election integrity" efforts.
During a media tour of the company's election operations centre at its Menlo Park headquarters in California on Friday, company officials touted new fact-checking efforts for suppressing misinformation and technological advances such as the ability to detect when videos had been doctored.
But Katie Harbath, Facebook's public policy director for global elections, said that measures including a better system for verifying the buyers of political advertisements remained imperfect and called for more government regulation of ad-spending disclosures.
India, where Facebook has more users than in any other country, is shaping up as a major test. On April 1, the company said it had removed more than 500 accounts and 138 pages linked to India's opposition Congress party for "coordinated inauthentic behavior", Facebook's term for the use of fake accounts and other deceptive methods to promote a message.
It also took down a page with two million followers which, according to Facebook's review partner Atlantic Council think-tank, was "pro-BJP" and a supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Ms Harbath said that the company can now quickly detect viral, politically sensitive stories and refer them for fact-checking by outside organisations. The officials also touted heavy investment in technology for detecting doctored videos and text inside pictures, but acknowledged that that they have been unable to stop some duplicates of videos that have been identified as spurious.
On deceptive political advertising, Facebook has toughened the rules in India and political ads now include "published by" and "paid by" disclaimers. Users can also access a library that allows them to search and find out more about political advertisements. Ms Harbath said political ad purchases in India now require either a certificate from the Election Commission or a physical address in India, as well as a phone number and group name of the entity purchasing the ad.
While Facebook will check that the address and phone number are legitimate, the company agreed that the same person could make up multiple entities at the same address, without any available record of the original source of money.
"This is a great example, we think, of where there needs to be more regulation," Ms Harbath said. REUTERS