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Facebook to open an ‘electoral integrity’ focused operation in Singapore

Facebook will be setting up an operation in Singapore and in Dublin focused on electoral integrity. The Dublin operation is scheduled to start this spring.

Speaking about the Singapore operations, a Facebook spokesperson said: “Over the last two years, we’ve invested heavily in people and technology to better identify and remove abuse, particularly around elections, and we are constantly working to strengthen our efforts in this area.

“We have dedicated teams working on every upcoming election around the world, and we have been localising our efforts here in Asia-Pacific to prevent interference on our platform in countries where there are planned elections in 2019.

“This includes detecting and removing fake accounts, working with fact-checkers to limit the spread of misinformation, tackling coordinated abuse, and bringing more transparency and accountability to advertisers.

“This work is supported by an expanded global and regional team who appreciate the nuances of this region, including a regional response team which will be based in Singapore.

“You can expect these centers to be operational closer to the elections in this region.”

Facebook claimed to have increased the number of people working on safety and security issues worldwide to 30,000 over the last year. The regional operations centres, including the one based in Singapore, are expected to provide an additional layer of defence, according to the company.

The mandate is to “help global teams to better work across regions, and improve response times between staff in Menlo Park and in-country.”

The centre in Singapore will be focused on the elections taking place in this region, including in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Speaking about the firm’s role in preserving electoral integrity in an address in Brussels, Clegg said: “In recent years, we have played a growing role in elections. In theory, this should be a good thing but we’ve also seen how we that can be abused.”

A Discussion with Nick Clegg

A Discussion with Nick Clegg moderated by Ryan Heath, live from Brussels.

Posted by Facebook Brussels on Monday, 28 January 2019

Elaborating on the electoral integrity measures that will be unveiled in time for the EU elections, Clegg said: “In late March we will launch new tools to make political advertising on Facebook more transparent.

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

Clegg also announced that political and issue ads — communication that does not explicitly back a candidate but focuses on highly politicised topics like immigration — would be stored in a publicly searchable library for seven years. There would be information available on the money spent, the number of impressions displayed, who paid for the advertising and demographic details on the audience including age, gender and location.

Speaking about the structure of the teams reviewing electoral integrity, Clegg said: “This effort will boost our rapid response effort to fight misinformation bringing together dozens of experts from threat intelligence, data science engineering, research, community operations and legal.

“We will work closely with law makers, election commissions, other tech companies, academics and civil society groups.

“We will continue to fight against fake news, prevent the spread of voter suppression efforts and further integrate the large number of teams working on these issues across Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.”

The move comes in the wake of several structural shifts within Facebook in the region and an increasing degree of scrutiny around fake news.

In September last year, in Singapore, The Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods made several recommendations in a report to Parliament in which Facebook, Google and Twitter were specifically mentioned.

“Legislation would be needed particularly for measures to be taken in response to an online falsehood, since Facebook, Google and Twitter have a policy of generally not acting against content on the basis that it is false,” the report said.

Facebook had at the time said “it was committed to working with the government.”

However, its reluctance to take down pages believed to be spreading fake news by government authorities had become a source of friction.

A press release from Singapore’s Ministry of Law dated November 9, issued in the wake of the controversy around The States Times Review site  said “Facebook cannot be relied upon to filter falsehoods or protect Singapore from a false information campaign” and “This shows why we need legislation to protect us from deliberate online falsehoods.”

A few weeks ago, the social network announced a distinct organisational structure for India, which would make the country distinct from its Asia-Pacific operations. The functional heads would now report to the country managing director Ajit Mohan instead of the division heads at a regional level.

The move was believed to be an attempt by the social network to bring to one of its largest markets a greater degree of local accountability and a closer relationship with the global headquarters.

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