Facebook is setting up a task force in India to prevent the abuse of its platform ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year, reported IANS. “With the 2019 elections coming, we are pulling together a group of specialists to work together with political parties,” said Richard Allan, vice president Global Policy Solutions, told reporters in Delhi.
Facebook attracted criticism earlier this year after it became public that British political consultation firm Cambridge Analytica had accessed private information of 87 lakh users, including five lakh Indian users. The company also failed to identify alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Allan said the team will comprise security specialists and content specialists, among others, and will be based in India. It will try to understand all the forms of election-related abuse in the country, he added. “The challenge for the task force in India would be to distinguish between real political news and political propaganda,” he said.
While false information linked to real-world violence is checked by the team responsible for maintaining Facebook’s community standards, a different team of fact-checkers verifies other forms of disinformation, said Allan. He added that Facebook “wants to help countries around the world, including India, to conduct free and fair elections”.
In an article last month, Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said protecting a democracy is an arms race, and both public and private sectors must combine to counter outside interference. He acknowledged that Facebook his company had been late in discovering that foreign actors were running coordinated campaigns to interfere with the 2016 United States presidential elections.
“We look proactively for potentially harmful election-related content,” Zuckerberg wrote. The social media company has also started assigning its users a reputation score, predicting their trustworthiness on a scale from zero to one, in order to help users identify malicious actors and combat the spread of fake news.
Allan said that Facebook is fully cooperating with the agency investigating the Cambridge Analytica issue in India, reported the Hindustan Times. “We believe that the data selling was limited to the US and that people in India were not affected,” he said.
Facebook has taken a number of steps to ensure that companies do not mine the personal data of users for political advantage, said Allan. “Even if somehow, technically, they get hold of data, we will ask them not to do it and it we still find them doing it, we will limit their use of the platform,” he said.