The story so far: In a blogpost on March 27, Facebook’s parent company Meta stated that it can anticipate threats and help prevent interference in elections better than before. It added that the platform’s focus on strengthening artificial intelligence and machine learning systems among other tools made it more effective at finding and removing abuse and fake accounts. Further, to ensure a level playing field, Meta extended the use of all advertising tools, previously available only to large entities, to entities of all sizes.
What are the recent changes Meta has incorporated into its platform?
The Ad auction: Meta said ad pricing on its platforms vary as per the entity’s targeting and bid strategy. It informed the auction does not make pricing decisions based on political viewpoints. “The assertion that any political party in India got discounted rates on ads because of their political affiliation is factually inaccurate,” the blog stated. In January, Facebook decided to do away with some of its ‘detailed targeting’ options that let the advertisers refine their target audience. It informed that broad targeting along with customised and lookalike audience targeting options would continue to exist.
Disclaimers: Political ads on Facebook and Instagram are required to be mandatorily authorised and must include disclaimers as well. This enables users to note the name of the person or organisation running the ads. The advertisers are required to verify their credentials to increase their accountability. “For example, if we discover that the phone, email or website are no longer active or valid, we will inform the advertiser to update them. If they do not, they will no longer be able to use that disclaimer to run ads about elections or politics,” the blog read.
Removing and demoting content:Meta announced that all political advertisements violative of their policies and standards, including those flagged by the Election Commission of India and scrutinised by them, will not be allowed to stay on their platforms. Separately, prior to the recently concluded State elections in five States of India, it had stated that if content, even though not violative of its standards but could potentially cause offline harm becomes widespread, it will be demoted so fewer people can see it.
Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour: This refers to coordinated actions at a large scale aimed at influencing public opinions to achieve a strategic social or political goal. Fake accounts are usually central to such operations. Meta stated it accords focus on behaviour and not content when determining deceptive campaigns. “...in many cases the content shared by influence operations isn’t verifiably false and may in fact be copied from authentic communities these deceptive campaigns are trying to mimic or reach,” the blog stated. The blog informed that it has been working on technologies to detect and block fake accounts, which are the source of a lot of inauthentic activity.
Virality: Meta said it does not tweak its algorithms to suit a particular user. The feed is essentially shaped by choices and actions of the individual user. “It is made up primarily of content from the friends and family they choose to connect to on the platform, the Pages they choose to follow, and the Groups they choose to join. Ranking is then the process of using algorithms to order that content,” the blog stated.
Language: Meta’s blogpost stated that it has content reviewers in 20 Indian languages. There has been $13 billion worth of investment which helped the company triple the size of its global team working on safety and security to over 40,000 including 15,000+ dedicated reviewers across 70 languages.
What is the process of authentication for advertisers?
Facebook stated that any advertiser publishing advertisements concerning social issues, elections or politics and are located in the designated country must complete Meta’s authorisation process. The rules do not apply for news publishers.
The direct (or proxy) entities are required to comply with requirement pertaining to disclaimer, labelling, blackout periods, foreign interference or spending limits and reporting requirements. As for authorisation, they are required to confirm their primary location, and upload a government photo ID such as passport, driving licence etc. After this, the entity would be required to put forth the list of accounts that would be used to fund its ads. Failure to comply with Meta’s provisions or furnishing misleading information during authentication may impart restrictions such as unpublishing of associated pages, disabling existing advertisements and revoking permission to publish new ads.
Can Meta completely ban advertising campaigns?
Meta barred all advertising about the Georgia runoff elections on its platform, with effect from January 6 the previous year. This was not the first time that Meta imposed an advertising blackout. This was first implemented in the runup to the election day in United States. Meta had barred all campaigners from publishing new advertisements a week before. “We know it’s important that campaigns are able to run get out the vote campaigns, but in the final days of an election there may not be enough time to contest new claims, which is why we aren’t accepting new political or issue ads in the final week,” it stated.
However, the campaigners allowed the existing advertisements to continue running.
How have Indian authorities checked Facebook’s alleged lack of accountability?
On March 28, officials of the social media platform Facebook were answering queries laid out by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology. The allegations laid out against them concern the partisan use of their algorithms to favour one political party. They were also questioned on the spread of hate content and the lack of Indian language experts for quality check. The company’s representatives, in their defence, said the algorithms only determine the comparative performance of the ads, denying allegations of any intervention by the company, a source informed The Hindu. It added that the platform does not differentiate between political and non-political advertisements.
The various changes Meta has introduced include mandating political ads on Facebook and Instagram to be authorised, removing political advertisements violative of their policies and standards etc.
Facebook stated that any advertiser advertising about social issues or politics and are located in the designated country must complete Meta’s authorisation process. They are required to confirm their primary location, and upload a government photo ID. They should also put forth a list of accounts that would be used to fund its ads.
On March 28, officials of the social media platform Facebook were questioned by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology
- The various changes Meta has introduced include mandating political ads on Facebook and Instagram to be authorised, removing political advertisements violative of their policies and standards etc.
- Facebook stated that any advertiser advertising about social issues or politics and are located in the designated country must complete Meta’s authorisation process. They are required to confirm their primary location, and upload a government photo ID. They should also put forth a list of accounts that would be used to fund its ads.
- On March 28, officials of the social media platform Facebook were questioned by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology.