Facebook Targeting Fake News Ahead Of 2019 Elections In India

Priyanka Ghandi, India's presidential candidate
Atul Loke / Getty images

Fake news, famously, was a huge problem in the 2016 presidential election, with various bad actors creating websites with false information and getting huge amounts of traffic through Facebook.

Facebook has taken certain steps to prevent such incidents in the future, but now a similar problem is on the rise in another election – in India.

According to an Associated Press story republished by Time magazine, Facebook has taken a variety of steps to reduce the fake news problem in India’s election, which is scheduled to take place in a multi-stage process that begins April 11 and continues through May 19.

In order to avoid problems, the social media giant is teaming up with various Indian media organizations in order to “check out and flag false stories” related to the election. The effort is in effect across multiple languages, including English, Hindi, and various regional languages.

In addition, the company will push certain stories down in users’ feeds once they have been flagged. The crackdown also applies to messaging platform WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook.

The Indian elections have another thing in common with the 2016 race in the United States – the interference by a foreign power. The company, per the Economic Times, has also taken down over 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts that originated in Pakistan, which are believed to have been controlled by ISI, that country’s military establishment.

The banned pages, the report said, included “military fan pages,” “general Pakistani interest Pages,” “Kashmir community pages,” and other Facebook accounts that were not legitimate.

In India, more than 20 people have died in mob attacks in the last year, in incidents that were said to have been inflamed by social media. With 300 million users, India has the world’s largest population of Facebook users, the AP said.

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While Attorney General William Barr’s summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report did not conclude that the Trump campaign knowingly colluded with Russia, it did, in fact, conclude that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. This was established earlier in the indictments brought against the Internet Research Agency, as well as the Russian government-backed hacker group known as “Fancy Bear.”

These organizations, according to the indictments, created fake Facebook accounts and web pages meant to sow racial and political division in the U.S., and in some cases, even planned rallies that ended up taking place in American cities, per a Fortune report in early 2018 about one of the special counsel’s indictments.