Facebook to monitor India elections?


The same people who revealed that more than 3.6 million users of its service in Asia may have had their information improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica last year are monitoring elections?

Cambridge Analytica, which was key in US President Donald Trumps’s election campaign, received international attention after the firm was accused of harvesting almost 87 million Facebook users’ data for political purposes.

And Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg went from saying it was “crazy” to think Facebook could influence an election to vowing that he will “fix” Facebook.

Interestingly, while it faced mounting issues and various scandals throughout 2018, Facebook continues to grow its revenue and user base.

In Q4 2018, the social network giant managed to exceed Wall Street expectations as it generated US$16.9 billion for that quarter. Of that, the profit amounts to US$6.9 billion.

Facebook prioritizes user growth; the more data a person shares with Facebook, the more ads can target a user, which makes users that much more valuable to Facebook.

It’s not just your name and age. Facebook can also track your likes, the content you write, your purchases, and where you are right now. 

Who can forget Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam who took Facebook to task last year.

He reminded Simon Milner, VP of Public Policy for Facebook Asia Pacific, why it is important for Facebook to fully answer questions from the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods.

But I suppose Singapore can rest easy for a while now since Facebook is investing in a S$1.4 billion data centre on the island soon (picture), first such hub in Asia and its 15th in the world.

It will support “hundreds of jobs” and form part of Facebook’s growing presence in Singapore and the region when it starts operations in 2022.

As India faces elections soon, Facebook said it will launch transparency tools for electoral ads in the country to help prevent foreign interference.

It will also make political and issue advertising on its platform more transparent.

And this will be done from Facebook’s operations centre in Singapore.

“We will create a publicly searchable library of these ads for up to seven years. The library will include information on the range of the ads’ budget, number of people they reached, and demographics of who saw the ad, including age, gender, and location,” said Samidh Chakrabarti, Director of Product Management and Civic Engagement at Facebook.

“These teams will add a layer of defence against fake news, hate speech and voter suppression, and will work cross-functionally with our threat intelligence, data science, engineering, research community, operations, legal, and other teams,” explained Katie Harbath, Global Politics and Government Outreach Director at Facebook.

The company said it will continue to expand its third-party fact-checking programme, covering content in 16 languages:

“We have rolled out the ability for fact-checkers to review photos and videos in addition to article links, because we know multimedia-based misinformation is making up a greater share of false news.”

Facebook also wants to give us a few lessons about democracy….

There are plans to organise a series of workshops over the next few months in Singapore, Delhi, Nairobi, Berlin, New York, Mexico City, and others, inviting experts and organisations who work on issues like free expression, technology and democracy, procedural fairness, and human rights. Facebook, is planning another regional operations centre focused on election integrity in Dublin….

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