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Facebook Sends Its Representatives To Users’ Home in India, To Check Authenticity of Posts

Over 200 fake Facebook Groups and Pages with more than one lakh followers are currently influencing the group members and followers with biased political content, say social media experts. 

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Facebook has partnered with external agencies for physical verification of the location of the advertisers. VOA

Facebook, facing the election heat in India and unable to stop misinformation and fake news circulating on its platforms, is busy doing something never heard of: Sending its representatives to users’ home to verify if the post with political content was actually written by them.

IANS has contacted one such Facebook user in New Delhi who was recently visited by a Facebook representative for the verification process related to the content the user had posted.

“It was like cops come to your door for passport verification. The Facebook representative asked me to prove my credentials by asking for my Aadhaar card and other documents to understand if I am the one who had posted the political content,” the person who did not wish to be named told IANS.

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Facebook-owned WhatsApp is another fake news factory where more than 87,000 groups are targeting millions with political messaging. Pixabay

The user was left stunned to see a Facebook representative landing at his home for inquiring about a post.

“It was a shocker for me. How come a social media platform does that to a user? What about a user’s privacy? I have never heard of any such incident anywhere. Was this at the behest of the government?” asked the user.

IANS sent a couple of mails to Facebook for their version on this but to no avail.

This kind of behaviour has not been seen or reported earlier even at the global level as several countries have gone through the elections with Facebook trying its best to curb misinformation.

According to legal experts, physically verifying a user is something that is unprecedented and called for tough action against the social media platform.

“This action, if true, clearly infringes upon the privacy of a user. Sending a representative to physically verify a user is a blatant invasion of his or her privacy space. Only the state can act like this under proper laws,” Pavan Duggal, the country’s top cyber law expert and a senior Supreme Court advocate, told IANS.

Facebook, Duggal said, can at best discontinue a Page, Group or delete the post, or remove the user from its platform as it has done so in the past.

When it comes to those who wants to run political ads on Facebook, the company verifies residency of advertisers either by physical verification (by sending someone to the address provided) or by sending a code in the post.

Facebook has partnered with external agencies for physical verification of the location of the advertisers.

To be approved by Facebook, one needs to have a residency in India and the verification process takes around four to five days, says the company which has close to 30 crore users in the country.

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This kind of behaviour has not been seen or reported earlier even at the global level as several countries have gone through the elections with Facebook trying its best to curb misinformation. Pixabay

But physical verification of a user is gross violation and unwarranted under the ambit of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

“In such a scenario, the user can sue Facebook and even the government for allowing such activities under its nose that infringes on the privacy of a user,” Duggal noted.

The world’s largest democracy goes to the polls from April 11 and the social media giant is scrambling for solutions which are few and far between.

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Over 200 fake Facebook Groups and Pages with more than one lakh followers are currently influencing the group members and followers with biased political content, say social media experts.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp is another fake news factory where more than 87,000 groups are targeting millions with political messaging. (IANS)

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Political ad Spend on Facebook Picks up in April

The 2019 Lok Sabha election is being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19

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FILE - The Facebook app icon is shown on an iPhone in New York. VOA

Political parties and their affiliates ramped up spending on social media ads ahead of the third phase of Lok Sabha elections, scheduled for Tuesday, show data released by Facebook Ad Library.

Indians spent around Rs 7 crore for running political ads on Facebook and Instagram in the first 20 days of April, while the amount spent on these platforms in February-March was about Rs 10 crore.

Facebook’s Ad Library, a searchable database, includes ads related to politics and issues of national importance run on Facebook or Instagram.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates continue to lead the ad spending on Facebook. The official BJP page took the top spot in the list of spenders on social media platforms. Of the Rs 1.3 crore that it spent on Facebook, Rs 44.32 lakh was spent during the week ending April 20.

The official Congress page on Facebook spent Rs 56.69 lakh during February-April 20.

However, supporters and affiliates of political parties account for most of the spending on the social media platforms.

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FILE – An Indian man surfs a Facebook page at an Internet cafe in New Delhi, India, Feb. 9, 2016. VOA

For example, the pro-BJP pages — Bharat Ke Mann Ki Baat (Rs 2.23 core), My First Vote For Modi (Rs 1.08 crore) and Nation with NaMo (Rs 1.20 crore) among others — spent much more than the Congress.

Similarly, the pro-Congress page “Bande Mein Hai Dum” spent Rs 2.59 lakh for drumming up support for the grand old party on Facebook and the Indian Youth Congress spent Rs 6.52 lakh on the social media platform.

Among the regional parties, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the YSR Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) lead the spending table on Facebook.

Also Read- Warning for WhatsApp Users in UAE Issued: Report

On Twitter, the accounts spending over $100 during the past week belonged to BJP MLA from Mandawa Narendra Kumar, Mumbai Congress unit chief Milind Deora, Congress leader and former Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahai, BJD President Naveen Patnaik and the TN Youth Party.

The 2019 Lok Sabha election is being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. (IANS)