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"Promoting election integrity in India isn’t something Facebook can do alone": Ajit Mohan on Facebook blog

As the country slips into the election frenzy, we visit a blog post by the social media platform's India MD and VP on tackling fake news, misinformation and abuse.

Facebook is using artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify abusive/violating content, locate it and remove it at a large scale. "We continue to expand on this initiative, adding 24 new languages - including 16 for India - to our automatic translation system," writes Ajit Mohan Facebook's MD and VP, India.

The platform removed around 700 pages, groups and accounts in India for violating policies on coordinated inauthentic behaviour and spam. And its tools can block or remove approximately one million accounts a day.

"Promoting election integrity in India isn’t something Facebook can do alone": Ajit Mohan on Facebook blog
Ajit Mohan

The platform's teams of engineers, operations specialists and data scientists, in regional offices of Singapore and Dublin, will work with Menlo Park, CA headquarters, as well as with local experts in Delhi. "This structure helps strengthen our global coordination and speed our response times, adding another layer of defence against false news, misinformation, hate speech and voter suppression," Mohan says.

Facebook's teams are concentrating on 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.

The platform's team has also launched its effort towards transparency to provide a clearer picture of advertisers. Political advertisers have to first confirm their identity and location, and provide details about who paid for or published the ad. The ad is accompanied by a “paid for by” or “published by” disclaimer and houses it in a searchable Ad Library for seven years. Anyone can access information on the spend behind the ad as well as demographics of who saw it.

Facebook has extended partnerships with third-party fact-checkers to seven accredited organizations in India covering English, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Gujarati - and is looking to add more. "In a country largely driven by local and community news, we knew it was critical to have fact-checking partners who could review content across regions and languages," Mohan adds.

A false story is followed by a report on actual facts at hand by the checkers. Apart from this. It includes flagging, a new design and alert for admins about sharing fake news.

"Promoting election integrity in India isn’t something Facebook can do alone. We recently joined other social media companies in a voluntary code of ethics for the general elections with the Election Commission of India (ECI)," Mohan writes

Facebook has also created a training process to help policymakers, candidates and their staff improve their cybersecurity and awareness.

"During elections, times of conflict or political turmoil, these accounts can be at higher risk of threats and abuse, so we help them learn how to be proactive and look for signals that their accounts could be harmed," he adds.

The elections are underway and are being conducted in seven phases. The first phase took place on April 11. The second phase will be conducted on April 18, with the last being conducted on May 19. The counting of votes will be conducted on May 23, and results will be declared on the same day.

(The blog appeared on Facebook's Newsroom page earlier this month.)

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