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HT leadership Summit: Facebook ties up with EC to help Indians register, vote

Facebook is spending a lot of time and money to rule out all the causes that lead to spread of misinformation, said Facebook’s director of news products, Alex Hardiman, at the HT Leadership Summit on Thursday. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/MintPremium
Facebook is spending a lot of time and money to rule out all the causes that lead to spread of misinformation, said Facebook’s director of news products, Alex Hardiman, at the HT Leadership Summit on Thursday. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Facebook's Alex Hardiman says efforts to tie up with Election Commission are aimed largely at eliminating integrity issues around elections

New Delhi: Facebook Inc. on Thursday said it has tied up with the Election Commission of India to help its people register and vote, a top executive from the California-based company said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi.

“In the Indian market, earlier this week we launched a partnership with the Election Commission to make sure that as people become of age—18 in India—they not only get a reminder of their birthday but they also get a prompter with the Election Commission to register to vote, which is huge in order to make sure that people are going to the ballot boxes... to combine that with other electoral products that we have launched such as the list of candidates, the issues, what their positions are on those issues... so that people are informed and they can go vote," Alex Hardiman, director (news products), Facebook, said.

“We don’t have numbers on the number of people who have enrolled. We have increased the team more than two-fold to 250 people, who are focused specifically on these types of issues. I would expect a lot more partnerships," Hardiman said.

Hardiman said efforts to tie up with India’s apex body are aimed largely at eliminating integrity issues around elections, largely caused by ambiguous and fake posts on social media.

Hardiman said that Facebook is spending a lot of time and money to rule out all the causes that lead to spread of mis-information.

“We are making sure that we could do everything to restore trust in Facebook and high quality news and the electoral process," she said.

“The amount of misinformation on Facebook is actually quite small but we know that it is absolutely something that we need to get rid of. It erodes trust in high-quality journalism when it exists; it erodes trust in Facebook brand; it really erodes trust in public’s connection with really high-quality news and information," she added.

In order to curtail fake news, Facebook, she said, tries to identify and eliminate any possible ways for people to monetise bad content. A large team at Facebook works on identifying and removing fake accounts, which are also responsible for spread of mis-information. Also, Facebook tries to understand nuanced information, especially around sensationalist information—things that can exaggerate; things that can withhold information.

“So, we have human reviewers helping in understand the nuance at a cultural level... and then classifiers through machine learnings and other technologies to identify and then take down such kind of information feed," she said.

Facebook also runs fact-checking, though not in India, in countries such as the US, Germany and France, where it partners with third parties to understand what is authentic and what is not.

“So, any article that is flagged through a third party fact checker is immediately taken down," she said.

“There is no silver bullet but we have radically increased our investment in the area of misinformation and we want to make sure that as we minimise the bad, we really want to make sure that we elevate the good so that people can trust the news that they see not just on Facebook but across the news platforms," she said.

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