While Facebook’s subsidiary WhatsApp has launched massive campaign to clear fake news, and is spending ` 120 crore on advertisements across media platforms, Facebook too announced a ban on political ads. Both Google and Facebook feel this will bring more transparency ahead of election.
India is Facebook’s biggest national market outside the United States. It has announced that it would enforce tougher rules in India on political advertising and election interference. The company is looking into doing the same in other Asian nations as well.
Katie Harbath, Facebook’s director of global politics and government outreach, said, “Our election teams had been working for at least 18 months in each Asian country holding a major vote – Australia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. We would apply stricter rules to polls in Asia this year, and considered the elections very much a top priority.”
She added: “We have teams working to prevent election interference on our services. This includes detecting and removing fake accounts, limiting the spread of misinformation, tackling coordinated abuse, preventing foreign interference, and bringing more transparency and accountability to advertisers. We have made big investments to make sure we are prepared to handle whatever might happen.”
Whatsapp has already introduced a measure where you cannot forward a message to more than five recipients.
Global initiative by Facebook:
Facebook is also rolling out new rules to prevent "foreign interference" around the polls in many other countries including Nigeria. As per FB rules, political ad buyers in these countries must confirm their identity and location and their ads will be archived in an online library for seven years.
Facebook wants to clean its image torn by after data firm Cambridge Analytica obtained the personal data of as many as 87 million users ahead of the 2016 US elections. Also, it is heavily chastised by UK authorities which have fined it with a £500,000 ($645,000) in October 2018, saying that it failed to safeguard user data. Facebook will also launch additional ad transparency tools in the EU in May 2019.
Facebook said: "By shining a light on political ads, news organizations, regulators, watchdog groups and people anywhere in the world can hold advertisers and us more accountable."
Facebook has similar political ad rules in the United Kingdom and Brazil launched in 2018. As per rules, political ad-buyers in the United States must provide Facebook with their Social Security information, a copy of a government-issued ID, and a US address before placing any ads.
Google’s pre-poll measures:
The tech giant Google too has announced more openness to election advertising online and will enable voters to get the election-related information they need. As per Google, it will introduce an India-specific Political Advertising Transparency Report and searchable Political Ads Library. The tech platform says that the step will provide transparent information about who is purchasing election ads on Google platforms and how much money is being spent.
Google will launch the India Political Ads Transparency Report and Ads Library in March 2019, just ahead of election.
Google added that the new policy will require advertisers that are running election ads in India to provide a ‘pre-certificate’ issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) or anyone authorised by the ECI, for each ad they wish to run. Further, Google will verify the identity of advertisers before their election ads run on its platforms. The advertiser verification process will begin on 14 February 2019.
According to Google India Director – Public Policy Chetan Krishnaswamy, “In 2019, over 850 million Indians are expected to cast their vote to elect the country’s next government. We’re thinking hard about elections and how we continue to support democratic processes in India and around the world. In line with this, we are bringing more transparency to election advertising online, and surfacing relevant information to help people better navigate the electoral process.”
The way forward:
The steps taken by two tech giants is worthy of appreciation and it will certainly set an example for other tech companies to come clean on their system and avoid data being transferred to any party or agency for political or any other gains. The government’s tough stand has borne fruit and we can hope that this election people will use their voting power after listening to their conscience instead of social media.