As Elections Near, Can We Trust Facebook Or Twitter To Police The Internet?

This year, Election Commission (EC) of India took a positive action to prevent misuse of social media in the runup to 2019 elections. According to a PTI report, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and WhatsApp have changed the manner in which users consume content and communicate with each other, but the social media firms need to be mindful of “certain dos and don’ts” and guard against any misuse of their platforms”.

Prasad also added,” Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and WhatsApp are coming to India not only because they are giving some service. India offers a robust market, by its sheer size. I always say, come do business but remember certain dos and don’ts…you must follow”. As per a leading news channel, Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat said that the commission had directed officials to address the issues of discrepancies and bogus voters in the electoral roles and rectify them after field visits. He further added,” Before leaving for Hyderabad, I had a meeting with a Facebook team in Delhi and we are going to organise a workshop with them to further strengthen these arrangements (to prevent the misuse of social media) so that we can prevent any adverse impact on these elections. Not only these elections, even the Lok Sabha elections”

According to a report, Mr. Rawat said that a committee under Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha had called regional and local heads of Google, Facebook, and Twitter and had asked them for what they can do for ensuring purity of Indian elections such as avoiding adverse impact of fake news and targeted communication to voters. The panel was set up to investigate possible changes in Section 126 of Representation of the People Act, 1951 in view of the expansion and diversity of media platforms.

He further said, “They have all committed that during the campaign period, they will not allow anything which is adversely affecting level playing field tp be allowed on their platforms… during the last 48 hours before the close of the poll, they have committed that nothing of elections will be allowed on their platforms”.

EC has already taken steps to prepare for the electoral rolls and keep them on a digital platform as it has already been tested during the Karnataka elections. Rawat said to PTI, “Small pilot was there. That was the beginning. Now we will have a bigger pilot before Lok Sabha elections in these four states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram”.

Technology Behind Election 2019

Researchers at the University of Michigan, US have developed a web-based tool for monitoring the prevalence of fake news on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The web-based tool uses a Platform Health Metric called the Iffy Quotient that works by drawing data from two external entities.

According to a report, a social media engagement tracking firm called Newswhip collect URLs on thousands of sites every day and then gathers information on which of those sites have engagements on both platforms, Facebook and Twitter. Iffy Quotient then queries Newswhip for the top 5000 most popular URLs on these two platforms to check if those domain names have been flagged by Media Bias/Fact Check which is a comprehensive media bias resource on the internet.

The tool then divides the collected URLs into three categories based on the Media Bias/ Fact Check lists:

  1. Iffy: If the site is on Questionable Sources or Conspiracy list that includes extreme bias, overt propaganda, poor, no sourcing to credible information, etc.
  2. OK: If the site is on another list, for instance, Right-Bias, Least Biased, Left-Center Bias, Left Bias, etc.
  3. Unknown: If the site is not on any of the lists.

In our previous article, we already discussed how Instagram is proving itself as the new tool for the 2019 elections. Click here to read it.

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Ambika Choudhury
A Technical Journalist who loves writing about Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. A lover of music, writing and learning something out of the box.

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