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Facebook to set up regional centres in Dublin, Singapore to monitor election-related content




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Social media giant Facebook will set up two new regional operations centres focused on monitoring election-related content in its Dublin and Singapore offices.

The two centres and an independent content oversight board with the power to overturn company decisions on user posts are part of the social media giant’s latest efforts to address concerns over misinformation and abusive behaviour on its platform.

It would become an additional layer of defense on top of Facebook’s global team of 30,000, with its aim at helping it prevent different kinds of abuse in the run-up to elections.

The content oversight board’s 40 members will select cases to review as the social media network tries to crack down on harassment, incitement of violence and the spread of false information without infringing freedom of speech.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: Screengrab from YouTube)

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has said that Facebook should not make such decisions, but defer to an independent body of technology and human rights experts free of commercial influences.

In a draft charter proposal, Facebook will select inaugural members for three-year terms, but they will independently decide on future membership.

Nick Clegg, former British deputy prime minister and now, the present Facebook vice president wrote in a blog post about the charter, “details about the board’s makeup and appeals process will be finalised after a series of workshops over the next six months.”

Facebook said that the teams in Singapore and Dublin “will add a layer of defences against fake news, hate speech and voter suppression, and will work cross-functionally with our threat intelligence, data science, engineering, research, community operations, legal and other teams.”

The social network has been under pressure from regulators around the globe to fight spread of misinformation on its platform.

In order to regain trust after last year’s revelation that British consultancy Cambridge Analytica had improperly acquired data on millions of US users to target election advertising, Facebook will launch new tools to counter online political meddling in the European elections in late March.

“We will require those wanting to run political and issue ads to be authorised, and we will display a ‘paid for by’ disclaimer on those ads.”

He also added that the methods would help “make political advertising on Facebook more transparent”.

These tools will also cover so-called issue ads “which don’t explicitly back one candidate or political party but which focus on highly politicised topics like immigration”.

Photo: Screengrab from YouTube

Mr Clegg explained that the new tools are similar to those adopted for the US mid-term elections, with all political ads stored in a publicly searchable library for up to seven years.

Fears about misinformation and interference have intensified with elections due this year for the European Parliament and several EU countries including Belgium and Finland.

Launching of the transparency tools for electoral ads would be on February in India before its elections and in Ukraine and Israel before polls in both. Global expansion is set before the end of June.

There have been criticisms hurled at Facebook for being involved in a series of scandals, including the allegations of selling user data and being used as a platform to spread divisive or misleading information.

The US tech giant was also the centre of FBI investigation over Russia’s alleged meddling in the US election of Trump and intervention in votes across Europe.

“Selling people’s information to advertisers would not only be the wrong thing to do, it would undermine the way we do business because it would reduce the unique value of our service to advertisers,” Mr Clegg claimed.

He added that Facebook has no plans to swap its ads-only business model for a fee-paying service.

“We want Facebook to be a universal service. We believe that anyone should be able to connect to anyone else. The best way to do this is to offer the service for free — and that’s what the advertising model allows us to do.”


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