When it comes to elections, the campaigning for many political parties invest heavily in online initiatives, and it is no different for India, which goes into the poll this month. However, as everyone knows, the online political discourse can often turn toxic and online abuse is a frequent complaint among users, which is why Facebook had initiated efforts to curb abuses of its platform ahead of the Indian elections. Facebook is the most popular online platform for political parties all across the world, and it is even more so in India, with some of the biggest parties pending copious amounts of money on their campaigning through the platform.
In addition to that, the number of Facebook users in India is around 300 million, and since data is cheap in the country, a very large number of people are now able to get their news from the platform. Needless to say, that has spiked the usage of Facebook by political parties in their campaigning efforts. However, Facebook has stated that it is determined to ensure that the integrity of the election is maintained and it is making efforts to ensure that its platform is not abused by political parties.
Facebook’s inability to police its platform adequately has seen the company come in for global criticism and its inability to remove Russia-sponsored content in the lead up to the Presidential elections in the United States three years ago, is perhaps its highest-profile slip. However, that is not all, in many Asian countries, its platform has been misused through the dissemination of fake news, hate speech and outright falsehoods. For instance, it has also been alleged that Facebook was gamed by the Leave campaign in the lead up to the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom.
Due to such high profile slips, it is not really a surprise that the social media giant has taken the policing of its platform during the Indian elections with such seriousness. It has also partnered with leading news agencies in India for fact-checking purposes and only last week, the company removed hundreds of pages and accounts belonging to both political parties for fraudulent behaviour. If a piece is found to be untrue, then Facebook ensures that a post of such nature is not circulated on its platform. India goes to elections in the next few days, and Facebook is confident that this time, it would not be blamed for failure to police its own platform.