KARACHI: Facing serious criticism for its role in allowing disinformation to spread during the 2016 US presidential elections, Facebook has claimed to have enhanced security measures ahead of the July 25 polls in Pakistan.
The social media giant has increased the number of safety and security people working on this area, with dedicated teams focused on preventing abuse on the platform during elections and started training of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s officials with the goal of increasing transparency and helping authorities promote civic engagement.
Also read: Facebook blocks Dawn.com post in Pakistan
Talking to Dawn on Saturday, Facebook spokesperson in Pakistan Sarim Aziz said “ensuring the integrity of elections around the world, including in Pakistan,” the social media company had taken a number of steps to protect elections from abuse and exploitation, including enhanced security measures to protect pages of political parties and candidates, improving the enforcement of its ads policies and greater ads and page transparency, better use of machine learning to combat fake accounts, and working to reduce the spread of false news.
Spokesperson says steps have been taken to protect elections from abuse, exploitation
“We have also dramatically increased the number of safety and security people working on this area, with dedicated teams focused on preventing abuse on our platform during elections,” he replied to a query about the security measures and Facebook’s coordination with the Pakistani authorities ahead of the general elections.
“We have been working with Election Commission of Pakistan to better understand and address the specific challenges faced here in Pakistan, to inform our community on civic issues, and help ensure that candidates are safe on the platform. Facebook has also been training election commission officials on how our platform works, with the goal of increasing transparency, improving security, and helping authorities promote civic engagement.”
The measures shared by Mr Aziz came as follow-up of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement in April 2018 to improve security and transparency ahead of elections in different countries, including Pakistan. The Facbeook founder had said the social media portal would require all political ads on its platform to clearly mention who is paying for the message and for their identity to be verified, “in a bid to curb outside election interference”.
A few measures shared by the Facebook’s spokesperson in Pakistan have further validated such moves.
“We are taking significant steps to bring more transparency to ads and pages on Facebook,” said Mr Aziz. “Anyone can now view active ads from pages on Facebook. The feature will allow our community in Pakistan — and around the world — to see ads across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and our partner network, even if those ads are not shown to you. People can also learn more about pages, even if they don’t advertise. For example, you can see any recent name changes and the date a page was created.”
He replied in the affirmative when asked about removal of fake accounts and groups operating in and outside the country ahead of the general elections. But he did not specifically share the data related to Pakistan.
“Fake accounts can be a major distributor of harmful and misleading content, and we work hard to keep them off the platform,” he said. “We’ve made recent improvements to recognise these inauthentic accounts more easily by identifying patterns of activity — without assessing account contents themselves. For example, our systems may detect repeated posting of the same content, or aberrations in the volume of content creation. In the first quarter of this year, we removed nearly six million fake accounts globally, 98.5 per cent of which we detected before anyone reported them to us,” the Facebook spokesperson said.
Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2018