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As India faces polls, Facebook says doesn't want site misused

October 08, 2018 14:21 IST

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 the country.

Facebook has been facing trust issues after it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to US President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign, reportedly accessed information from about 50 million users without their knowledge.

Image: Facebook has been facing trust issues after it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to US President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign, reportedly accessed information from about 50 million users without their knowledge.  Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters

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 about Facebook being misused by external forces to meddle in the US elections held in 2016. The social networking giant has accepted that it missed certain things in the run up to the elections.

 
Richard Allan, Facebook's Director of Policy for Europe
Image: Richard Allan, Facebook's Director of Policy for Europe. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/REUTERS

"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, 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 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 held in 2016.

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

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 the country.

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.

Kiran Rathee in New Delhi
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