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Can Social Media Control “Objectionable Content” And “Political Bias” From Its Platforms?

Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp intensified its fight against misinformation soon after dozens of lynching incidents in the country last year were linked to rumours spread on its platform.

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Facebook's political ad tracking has gone live for India, showing ad spends from the parties and their affiliates. Pixabay

Major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are aware of the damage fake news can cause to the election process in India. But none has one simple solution to eliminate the impact that misinformation can have on millions of voters.

After facing flak from the government, social media giants are in a huddle and have devised some tools and launched a few initiatives to fight fake news and political bias, in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.

China-based popular video social networking app TikTok has also reached out to the Election Commission to comply with its instructions and establish an escalation channel, abiding by the model code of conduct.

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According to Twitter’s Global Vice President of Public Policy, Colin Crowell, Twitter has now put in place a dedicated team for maintaining site integrity and focused on cleaning manipulation networks that might affect the voting process in India. Pixabay

“We have also informed Election Commission that we will not serve any paid political advertisements on our platforms in India throughout this election period,” ByteDance, which operates social media apps such as TikTok and Helo, said in a statement shared with IANS.

Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp intensified its fight against misinformation soon after dozens of lynching incidents in the country last year were linked to rumours spread on its platform.

From launching awareness programmes on dangers of fake news on TV, radio and digital platforms to limiting the number of forwards to five, the messaging platform has introduced several measures.

“We’re pleased that the recent changes we’ve made to limit viral content and educate users is having an impact. This work is never done — there is more that we can and will do,” WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose said in a statement this week.

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This not even social media players are sure of as, in their own words, there is much more to be done on this front. Pixabay

WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook is also banking on a multi-pronged strategy to fight fake news ahead of the elections. From verifying political ads to expanding the third-party fact checkers programme in India and making information labelled as fake less visible on News Feed, the social media giant has taken several measures to reduce the impact of misinformation.

Richard Allan, Facebook’s Vice President for Global Policy Solutions, said recently that the company was establishing a task force comprising “hundreds of people” in the country to prevent bad actors from abusing its platform.

Facebook’s political ad tracking has gone live for India, showing ad spends from the parties and their affiliates.

Micro-blogging site Twitter, which earlier faced accusations of being “slow” in removing “objectionable content” and “political bias” from its platform, has started showing billing details of political ads as its Ads Transparency Center for the country went live this week.

According to Twitter’s Global Vice President of Public Policy, Colin Crowell, Twitter has now put in place a dedicated team for maintaining site integrity and focused on cleaning manipulation networks that might affect the voting process in India.

Also Read: Facebook Partners with Top Music Labels in India

Would these efforts deter the unofficial troll army of political parties from posting misinformation?

This not even social media players are sure of as, in their own words, there is much more to be done on this front. (IANS)

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Vaccine Doubts Spread Across Social Media Like Disease, Should be Taken Down: Vaccine Chief

"We have to think about it as a disease. This is a disease," Berkley said. "This spreads at the speed of light, literally"

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FILE - A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella virus (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington, U.S. VOA

Doubts about vaccines have spread across social media like a disease and false information that “kills people” should be taken down by the companies running digital platforms, the head of global vaccine alliance Gavi said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a U.S.-sponsored event on the sidelines of the World Health Organization’s annual assembly in Geneva, Gavi CEO Seth Berkley said there was a strong scientific consensus about the safety of vaccines.

But social media algorithms favored sensational content over scientific facts, rapidly convincing people who had never seen family members die from preventable illness.

“We have to think about it as a disease. This is a disease,” Berkley said. “This spreads at the speed of light, literally.”

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“A study says @Autism is out of control — a 78% increase in 10 years. Stop giving monstrous combined vaccinations,” Trump tweeted in 2012. Pixabay

WHO says poor vaccination coverage is causing measles outbreaks globally, with numbers spiking in countries that were previously almost free of the disease, including the United States.

Misinformation about vaccines, which the WHO says save two million lives annually, was not a freedom of speech issue and social media firms need to take it offline, Berkley said. “I remind people that this kills people,” he said.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said complacency, misunderstanding and misinformation were causing vaccination rates to decline globally, with tragic results.

“In my country, social media conspiracy groups confuse well-meaning parents so they hesitate to get the recommended vaccinations,” Azar said.

He rejected any criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump, who repeatedly and erroneously tweeted about links between vaccines and autism in the years before he became president.

“A study says @Autism is out of control — a 78% increase in 10 years. Stop giving monstrous combined vaccinations,” Trump tweeted in 2012.

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Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said health authorities needed to “up our game,” adding that she was working with Twitter, Facebook, Google and other tech companies. Pixabay

Azar said Trump was “extremely firm” in support of vaccination.

“If you had been paying attention in the last month, you would know that the President of the United States, President Trump, was very clear and emphatic: get your shots, get your kids vaccinated, vaccines are safe,” Azar said.

ALSO READ: WHO to Strengthen Strategies to Combat Ebola Epidemic in Congo

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said health authorities needed to “up our game,” adding that she was working with Twitter, Facebook, Google and other tech companies.

“You’ve got to get into the trenches … and begin to get engaged much more on a personal and emotional level, because people don’t understand statistics and data. If you do that. (VOA)