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Facebook and the EU Elections: Fighting misinformation, multiple languages, political ads, and more

Facebook said the EU elections “undoubtedly present” one of the most complex elections Facebook has faced since it will take place in 28 countries across which speak 24 official languages. The company has launched an elections operations center in Dublin for coordination and response.

Fact-checking efforts

  • False information is detected using machine learning and is flagged to human reviewers who then check the false content and rate its accuracy, false posts marked so by fact-checkers are downmarked and their distribution is reduced
  • Added five new fact-checkers: Ellinika Hoaxes in Greece, FactCheckNI in Northern Ireland, Faktograf in Croatia, Observador in Portugal and Patikrinta 15min in Lithuania – all IFCN-certified fact-checkers have all become Facebook’s partners for fact-checking ahead of the European Parliament elections in May.
  • Fact-checkers in 14 European languages: Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.
  • FactCheckEU: Facebook’s fact-checkers are also working to fact-check election related content.

Platform changes to WhatsApp

When asked about how Facebook will deal with WhatsApp during the EU elections, Gleicher said its “really important” to understand that WhatsApp is actually a fundamentally different kind of platform and service than Facebook. “It is fundamentally a private messaging application and therefore the vectors for abuse are actually quite different than one might see at Facebook,” he said. He explained that WhatsApp has created computation techniques to crack down on spammy behaviour:

  • Banning millions of fake accounts each month
  • Global limit on forwards (to five) to constrain virality of platform
  • controls for users on how they can be added to groups
  • Forwarded labels

Dealing with local language and content moderation

Facebook said the EU elections over 28 countries is a contributor for its investment in scaling automatic translation technologies over the last year and a half. The company stated this in response to questions over the resources it is giving to monitoring content in small languages such as Danish, which could possibly be more vulnerable to misinformation.”Whenever we’re running an investigation, we’re able to rapidly ramp up the linguistic skills and the local cultural and regional skills that the team needs to understand the threat and to run that investigation quickly.”

Account and content moderation

  • Facebook said its “gotten better’ at detection and blocking of fake accounts created through automation; its also began automated translation at scale to better moderate content.
  • Page admins with large followings have to enable two-factor authentication for increased security and to prevent hacking and reduce the ability of foreign page admins to target audience in another country.

Verification of political advertisers

All political advertisers in the EU need to be authorised in the country where ads are being delivered, even though the EU election is a regional and not country-specific poll. For example, advertisers verified in the UK can deliver ads only in the UK, and not in France or Germany. Additionally, all political ads have to be labeled with paid-for-by disclosures and information on budgets and impressions.

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