Facebook boosts efforts to safeguard integrity of 2019 polls

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2019 04:18 PM | Updated as of Jan 24 2019 05:49 PM

Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. Dado Ruvic, Reuters

MANILA – Facebook on Thursday said it improved its efforts against "bad actors" on the platform to ensure online safety, digital literacy, and integrity of the 2019 polls.

Its goal is to make it "harder" for offenders to interfere with the elections while making it easier for Filipinos’ voices to be heard, director of Global Politics and Government Outreach Team Katie Harbath said in a briefing. 

The social media platform increased its pool of safety and security personnel to 30,000 from 10,000 to intensify efforts against fake accounts which are "significant distributor" of false news, Harbath said. 

To fight misinformation, Harbath said Facebook enhanced its partnerships with 3rd party fact-checkers such as Rappler. “Fact-checking” labels will also appear on the app to inform users if they’re sharing contents that have been tagged as false news, she said.

Ads are also becoming more transparent on the platform since some people tend to use advertisements to influence the electoral process, she said. 

“The internet has had an increasing role in the elections over the last couple of years. What this shows is that we are taking our responsibility seriously, in our role that we play to protect the integrity of the Philippine election on our platform as well as making sure that people safe in order to engage and making sure that every body can have a voice,” Harbath said. 

Facebook director of Global Politics and Government Outreach Team Katie Harbath speaks to the media in Taguig. 

She said spending in security has always been a “top investment priority” for the company.

Facebook is also pushing for an enhanced literacy program, which Harbath said was the platform's way of supporting an “informed” electorate.

Leading to the 2019 midterms polls, Facebook notification will appear on top of users’ feed upon logging in to show election-related information, Harbath said. 

Harbath said deploying a combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning, as well experts in security and terrorism to ensure the safety of the platform is not just a practice during the election season but will be "the new normal" for Facebook.

As of the third quarter of 2018, over 1.5 billion accounts were taken down globally for violating policies, she said. In the Philippines, Facebook recently banned 220 Facebook pages, 73 Facebook accounts and 29 Instagram accounts affiliated with Twinmark Media for violating misrepresentation and spamming policies.

“This work will never stop, this is our new normal. Because things change very quickly and we need to be prepared with what’s happening in our platform,” she said.

The platform will work closely with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to conduct trainings on online safety for field officers, she said. 

COMELEC is working closely with Facebook "to deter threats to election's integrity and ensure we mitigate risks to safety during the midterm elections," spokesperson James Jimenez said in a statement.