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Facebook planning a ‘war room’ in Delhi to monitor Elections 2019

In a bid to prevent the spread of fake news on its platform ahead of Elections 2019, Facebook Inc. plans to start an operations centre in Delhi, which will coordinate with the social media giant’s offices at Menlo Park (California), Dublin and Singapore, on a 24×7 basis to monitor election content, said Shivnath Thukral, director, public policy, India and South Asia, Facebook.

With this move, Facebook aims for constant engagement with the Election Commission of India (ECI) to understand how it can ensure the coming polls are safe from abuse and misinformation on its platform, said Thukral.

Facebook has been under pressure from the India over its inability to prevent misuse of its platform during elections. India will be the second country after the US to have an operations room for Facebook. While the company did not share specific details about its launch date and actual working, the centre will be modelled on the one launched during the US elections, said Thukral. There will be multiple cross-functional teams that will look at different aspects of the platform such as content, policy, legal, while some work closely with the EC, added Thukral.

Facebook has already intensified its election efforts and there are already 40 teams working on elections in India. The process began with Karnataka, then the other state elections and will now be further strengthened during the Lok Sabha elections.

Its first big priority is to remove fake accounts that are the source of misinformation. It claims to have taken down two billion fake profiles between September 2017 and October 2018 in its fight against bots, and their creators, using a combination of machine learning and human reviews.

Another step is to reduce the instances of fake news going viral. Facebook says it is a technology platform and not an arbiter of truth, so it has on-boarded independent fact checkers to help identify and review false news. As part of the third-party fact-checking programme started in December 2016, Facebook India has on-boarded the largest number of fact checkers, said Thukral.

The company has partnered with seven companies—BOOMLive, AFP, India Today Group, Vishvas.news, Factly, Newsmobile and Fact Crescendo—across languages, including English, Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam and Marathi, for fact-checking.

Once a third-party fact-checker marks something as false, the posts see reducing future impressions by 80%. The company metrics show that virality of stories has gone down significantly after Facebook launched fact-checking across the globe.

The third leg is to create more and more transparency and authenticity for political advertising on Facebook, informed Thukral. The ads transparency tool has been rolled out in India, following its success in the US, Brazil and the UK. This includes the authorization process for advertisers and the disclaimer process that provides more information about who’s placing the ad.

Additionally, all political ads are now housed in the ad library so a Facebook user can see the ad’s creative, start and end date, performance data, including the range of impressions, spend, and information such as who saw the ad, including the person’s age, gender and location across India.

Also, starting this month, the company has started publishing a weekly ad archive report in India that lists various insights such as the top spenders, to ensure all the information is in public domain, said Thukral.

The report is a key part of Facebook’s ongoing election integrity efforts.

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