Specialists to monitor ads and content on Facebook for 2019 Lok Sabha polls

File photo: Narendra Modi at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California
In order to ensure that its platform isn't used to influence elections in India, Facebook has set up a task force consisting of several specialists who will monitor advertising and content on the platform as the world’s biggest democracy goes to polls next year.

There have been reports of Facebook being misused by external forces to meddle in the 2016 US election. The social networking giant too had accepted that it missed certain things in the run-up to the US elections. However, it hopes such a thing won’t be repeated in India as the company will have hundreds of people working on elections in India.

“We want our platform to support free and fair elections and positive civic engagement. We welcome the fact that the people will engage with their political leaders and candidates through our platform. But we don’t want them to abuse that,” said Richard Allan, Vice President of Policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Facebook.

He added that as elections near, the company will pull together specialists who will work with politicians to understand what local parties are doing. “The work will actually be done once the elections near… it is the people who monitor advertising to make sure that the ads are appropriate, people who work at community operation centres who are looking at the content… there will be a network of hundreds of people across the company who will end up working on the election,” Allan said.

The Indian government had categorically told the US-headquartered social networking giant that no meddling in the election process would be tolerated. The issue surrounding the use of social media platforms to influence polls emerged earlier this year when British data firm Cambridge Analytica was accused of accessing data of millions of Facebook users without their consent. The data was allegedly used to influence elections across the globe, including that of US Presidential elections in 2016.

Having learnt its lessons, Facebook has set up a task force that will have security specialists and content specialists, among others, who will try to understand all the possible forms of election-related abuse in India.

Allan added that the challenge for the task force in India would be to distinguish between real political news and propaganda. The task force will constitute of existing employees as also new hires.

“What the task force is trying to do is make sure that we don’t miss things…in the past, we missed things in the run-up to the US elections… So it’s really about making sure that, in the Indian context, in particular, we will not miss things… we are building up a team here to spot what is going on,” he said.  
 
Keeping Meddlers at bay
  • Facebook has accepted that it missed certain things in the run up to the elections
  • The company will pull together specialists who will work with politicians to understand what local parties are doing
  • A task force will have security and content specialists, among others, who will try to understand all the possible forms of election-related abuse in the country
  • The government had told Facebook that no meddling in the election process will be tolerated


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