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Facebook Better Prepared To Defend Itself Against External Manipulation For The Elections

Facebook announced it was expanding fact-checking for photos and videos to 27 partners in 17 countries around the world, up from 14 countries earlier this year.

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A combo of 2017-2018 photos shows (L-R) a Facebook posting from a group named "Being Patriotic" attributed to Russian agents by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee; Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, whose campaign was targeted by Russian hackers, and voting machines in Chicago after hackers breached the voter registration database at the Illinois State Board of Elections in mid-2016. VOA

Facebook is better prepared to defend against efforts to manipulate the platform to influence elections and has recently thwarted foreign influence campaigns targeting several countries, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday.

Zuckerberg, posting on his Facebook page, outlined a series of steps the leading social network has taken to protect against misinformation and manipulation campaigns aimed at disrupting elections.

“We’ve identified and removed fake accounts ahead of elections in France, Germany, Alabama, Mexico and Brazil,” Zuckerberg said.

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Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media on Capitol Hill. VOA

“We’ve found and taken down foreign influence campaigns from Russia and Iran attempting to interfere in the US, UK, Middle East, and elsewhere — as well as groups in Mexico and Brazil that have been active in their own country.”

Zuckerberg repeated his admission that Facebook was ill-prepared for the vast influence efforts on social media in the 2016 US election but added that “today, Facebook is better prepared for these kinds of attacks.”

But he also warned that the task is difficult because “we face sophisticated, well-funded adversaries. They won’t give up, and they will keep evolving.”

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Facebook’s data centres are currently located across the US and in Europe. Pixabay

The Facebook co-founder said the social network remains in a constant battle with those who create fake accounts that could be used to spread false information — having blocked more than a billion.

“With advances in machine learning, we have now built systems that block millions of fake accounts every day,” he said.

“In total, we removed more than one billion fake accounts — the vast majority within minutes of being created and before they could do any harm — in the six months between October and March.”

Zuckerberg’s post was the latest in a series of steps aimed at repairing the damage from its missteps in 2016, including the hijacking of personal data on millions of Facebook users by a political consultancy working for Donald Trump.

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Facebook CEO of Mark Zuckerberg Wikimedia commons

Separately, Facebook announced it was expanding fact-checking for photos and videos to 27 partners in 17 countries around the world, up from 14 countries earlier this year.

“Similar to our work for articles, we have built a machine learning model that uses various engagement signals, including feedback from people on Facebook, to identify potentially false content,” said produce manager Antonia Woodford.

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“We then send those photos and videos to fact-checkers for their review, or fact-checkers can surface content on their own.”

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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.

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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)