With the capability of reaching over 300 Mn Indians, Menlo Park-headquartered social media giant Facebook has been at the centre of regulatory hurdles and questions regarding social media abuse in the country.
Especially with the general elections lined up for April-May 2019, the company has been busy ramping up its processes, structures and services to ensure it tracks objectionable content in real time round the clock.
After it was announced that social media will also be following model code of conduct during the elections, the companies came up with voluntary code of ethics, under the supervision of IAMAI to track social media abuse and fake news circulation during the next two months.
The code of ethics highlighted that the companies will create a dedicated reporting mechanism for the Election Commission of India and appoint dedicated teams during the period of General Elections for taking expeditious action on any reported violations.
As part of the commitment, Facebook is putting in place a response team for which will be based in Singapore and will work closely with the Election Commission of India.
Samidh Chakrabarti, global director of product management for civic integrity at Facebook, reportedly said that this is extremely unusual for a product team to have any part of their team dedicated to a specific country, let alone a specific event in a country. But Facebook found this important and had already set it up it in the US last year.
As part of this, many of Facebook’s tools and products have been revamped and products have been localised, keeping the Indian elections in mind. These ‘election operation centres’ are reportedly aimed at centralising all election linked issues so as to reduce the time it takes to process and take down objectionable content.
Facebook’s Singapore-based Indian election centre will primarily support Indian elections through engineers, data scientists, product managers, operations specialists and policy experts.
The centres will reportedly have 24/7 response coverage with the team in Delhi getting inputs from the Election Commission and other institutions. These teams will reportedly pass the directions to team in Singapore so that they can take timely action.
And if something extremely complicated requires a change in product or critical decision making, it will reportedly be passed to the operation centre in Menlo Park California.
The company has already put in place mechanisms to track political ads on the platform, when it ruled that an advertiser who wants to run an ad in India related to politics will need to first confirm their identity and location along with details about who placed the ad.
It also launched its online searchable Ad Library for anyone to access which provides information about the person or group placing the ads.
As the election commission and the Indian government cracks down heavily on social media, the general elections are one of the biggest tests for the social media giants to prove their functionality and control over fake news and may even decide their fate in the country.
[The development was reported by ET.]