Our Steps to Protect State Elections in India

Across the world, Facebook is securing its platforms, providing transparency and empowering people to vote. Today, with elections ongoing across Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry, we are setting out further information on the measures that we are implementing to support and protect these important elections. Based on lessons we’ve learned from past elections in India and globally, we are taking steps to enhance civic engagement, combat hate speech, limit misinformation and remove voter suppression. We also continue to closely partner with election authorities, including to set up a high priority channel to remove content that breaks our rules or is against local law after receiving valid legal orders. 

Combating Hate Speech and Demoting Likely Hate Speech

We recognize that there are certain types of content, such as hate speech, that could lead to imminent, offline harm. We have a detailed policy against hate speech, and we remove violating content as soon as we become aware of it. To do this, we’ve invested significantly in proactive detection technology to help us catch violating content more quickly.

To decrease the risk of problematic content going viral in these states and potentially inciting violence ahead of or during the election, we will significantly reduce the distribution of content that our proactive detection technology identifies as likely hate speech or violence and incitement. This content will be removed if determined to violate our policies, but its distribution will remain reduced until that determination is made.

Under our existing Community Standards, we remove certain slurs that we determine to be hate speech. To complement that effort, we may deploy technology to identify new words and phrases associated with hate speech, and either remove posts with that language or reduce their distribution. 

Improving Efforts to Reduce Repeat Offender Content

In addition to our standard practice of removing accounts that repeatedly violate our Community Standards, we will also temporarily reduce the distribution of content from accounts that have recently and repeatedly violated our policies. 

Third-Party Fact-Checking to Limit Misinformation

As part of our efforts to tackle misinformation, we work with third-party fact-checkers around the world, including eight partners in India who are certified by the International Fact-Checking Network, to provide people with additional context about the content they’re seeing on Facebook. Over the last year, we enhanced our coverage in the primary languages of the states going to vote. In addition to English, these eight partners fact-check in 11 Indian languages including Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam and Assamese. When a fact-checker rates a story as false, we label the content and show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution. This stops its spread and reduces the number of people who see it. 

Voter Suppression Policy Reinforcement

Our policies prohibit voter interference, defined as objectively verifiable statements such as misrepresentation of dates and methods for voting (e.g., text to vote). We also remove offers to buy or sell votes with cash or gifts. 

Additionally, we also remove explicit claims that you will contract COVID-19 if you vote. Eg. “Don’t go to the polls today, everyone will get COVID-19” or “If you want to guarantee catching COVID, go vote today!” 

Voluntary Code of Ethics with the Election Commission of India

In 2019, led by the industry body IAMAI, we had set up a high priority channel with ECI for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, to receive content-related escalations. The Voluntary Code is applicable for this election as well.

Enhanced Civic Engagement

We believe Facebook has an important part to play in creating an informed community, and helping people access all the information they need to take part in the democratic process. We also remind people to exercise their democratic right to vote. Thus, we have designed Election Day reminders to give voters accurate information and encourage voters to share this information with friends on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Screenshots of voting information on Facebook and WhatsApp

Educating Users About Staying Safe on WhatsApp

In our continuous endeavour to keep users safe and tackle misinformation, WhatsApp specifically rolls out public education campaigns and digital literacy trainings to build awareness about refraining from forwarding frequently forwarded messages, turning on group permissions to help decide which groups to join, reporting or blocking a suspicious contact or number, and prohibiting bulk or automated messages.

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