Mumbai: Facebook Inc. is working to prevent individuals or organizations from manipulating its platforms, including WhatsApp and Instagram, to influence the general election in India that is due by May.

The move is part of Facebook’s global strategy to invest resources to maintain the integrity of elections, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said. The Menlo Park, California-based firm will devote its time on as many as 50 national elections that are scheduled to happen around the world in 2019, the person mentioned above said.

As part of the strategy, Facebook in India will focus on eliminating fake accounts, stopping the spread of fake news, increasing transparency in advertisements, and monitoring online abuse.

The company has faced severe backlash in several countries, including India and the US, where there have been investigations over potential misuse of the company’s platforms. Facebook has come a long way since the days of the Arab Spring in 2010, when a series of anti-government uprisings spread across the Middle East.

Starting with Tunisia, social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter helped activists organise and publicise the unprecedented protests against autocratic regimes.

However, Facebook faced flak after allegations of Russian government interference in US elections.

US senators took on Facebook for failing to protect users’ data and stop Russian election interference, and talked about prospects of heavily regulating the internet company.

Revelations such as the leak of data of as many as 87 million Facebook users without explicit permission to Cambridge Analytica further tarnished the social media giant’s image.

Facebook hopes that it will be able to win back the trust of users during the elections in India and in other countries this year.

For policy makers, politicians, candidates and their staff, Facebook has created a training module to help them boost cyber security.

“During high-profile events such as elections, times of conflict, or political turmoil, the accounts of political candidates, elected officials, and staff are at a higher risk of threats and abuse, so we help them learn how to be proactive and look for signals that their accounts could be harmed," the person mentioned above said.

A ‘Facebook Cyber Security Guide for Politicians and Political Parties’ has been created to protect and safeguard the integrity of the electoral process in India by ensuring that people have access to reliable information and diverse perspectives.

The guide was shared with policy makers, which included all Indian parliamentarians, chief ministers, and all the chief electoral officers appointed by Election Commission of India, according to the person mentioned above.

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