Facebook is taking steps to reduce the spread of false information on its platforms ahead of India’s general elections, company officials said Monday.
Facebook listed a variety of measures it is taking, from blocking fake accounts to employing third-party fact-checking organizations, through campaigning and voting, and the poll is scheduled to run from April 11 to April 19. may.
Calling the Indian election a “top priority,” Samidh Chakrabarti, director of Facebook’s Product Management for Civic Integrity division, said the company has made “an enormous amount of effort in the last two years” to prepare for the polls.
He said Facebook has partnered with Indian media organizations to verify and flag false stories in English, Hindi and other regional Indian languages.
After a fact check mark, a story that contains false information, Facebook reduces the number of times it appears in the news for any individual user by 80 percent, Chakrabarti said.
The social media giant came under immense scrutiny after it failed to prevent the spread of false information during the 2016 U.S. elections, when accusations of outside interference prompted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to testify in the United States Senate.
Facebook-owned messaging apps such as WhatsApp have been repeatedly scrutinized by the Indian government and law enforcement agencies, and asked to prevent the spread of false information and rumors linked to mob killings.
In 2018, at least 20 people were killed in India, mostly in rural villages, in mob attacks that were inflamed by social media.
In response, WhatsApp restricted message forwarding. to five recipients at a time, instead of the 256 previously allowed.
Although the measure was specific to India, it was applied globally earlier this year, WhatsApp announced in January.
But social media has also become a critical tool for political campaigns in India. Before the 2014 elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party used social media extensively for political advertisements and to interact with young voters.
The Election Commission of India is trying to control social media giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook to prevent the publication of user data and to curb the spread of politically motivated manipulative information.
Social media companies have submitted a “Voluntary Code of Ethics for the 2019 General Elections“For the electoral control body, a new requirement for this year.
“We are working hard to prevent bad actors from interfering with elections on Facebook,” Chakrabarti said, adding that Facebook has tripled the number of people working in security and safety to 30,000.
India reportedly has the highest number of Facebook users in the world, with over 300 million. That’s about a third of the 900 million people eligible to vote in 2019.
The elections will be held in seven phases to ensure adequate security and manageable logistics across the country of 1.3 billion people. The vote count will take place on May 23, and the results are expected on the same day.
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