It has become clear that forces intent on tampering with elections around the world, are using Facebook to do so. The company is therefore on high alert, to safeguard that the issues witnessed during the U.S. and French presidential elections are not repeated.
Facebook has announced the steps it took recently to safeguard the integrity of the German federal elections. The company curbed fake news and uncovered suspicious activity that showed intent to affect their course and results. Facebook’s EMEA VP of Public Policy, Richard Allan outlined the actions in a recent Newsroom post.
Apart from working with the political parties themselves in order to help candidates come closer to their voters, and supporting more “informed conversations about the election, Facebook worked with German officials to fight disinformation and create a safer platform for “genuine civic engagement.” Here are some of the areas they worked on.
Promoting Authenticity. One step to prevent the misuse of its platform involved removing tens of thousands of accounts that were fake, in the month before the election. The accounts were spotted by suspicious patterns of activity. This echoes removal of fake accounts in the run-up to the French elections.
Encouraging an Informed Electorate. In order to fight fake news and “support healthy civic discourse,” Facebook tested its Related Articles feature, using machine learning to reduce any clickbait content and spam – including in videos. The feature allows users access to different perspectives which gives people a better view of key issues.
Facebook also gave voters a tab for the political parties themselves to explain their position on “key issues.” Voters were then able to compare the perspectives between each political party. This was critical to giving them “exposure to a diverse set of viewpoints.”
Finally, Facebook launched an Election Hub for voters to keep track of the candidates on their ballots and to follow the elected representatives following the election.
Supporting Government Election Security Efforts. Facebook and the the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) worked together to train members of Parliament and candidates on issues around online security, and set up a reporting channel for the BSI itself related to security and authenticity during the elections.
Helping To Understand The Election Results. Facebook supported national and international media partners in reporting the voting results and provided context on them through Facebook Live from its Berlin office.
Ok, so… did it work? Not entirely, but it certainly made it more difficult for misinformation to spread. As Allan explained,
These actions did not eliminate misinformation entirely in this election – but they did make it harder to spread, and less likely to appear in people’s News Feeds. Studies concluded that the level of false news was low. We learned a lot, and will continue to apply those lessons in other forthcoming elections.
In any case, this is a step in the right direction, and Facebook is aiming to work with election commissions around the world to continue.