Meta to activate elections operation center in the country

Published April 11, 2022, 10:55 AM

by Robert D. Reyes

Just in time for the May 9th Philippine General Elections, Meta will be activating an Elections Operation Center in the country to monitor critical issues and respond to emerging risks in real-time. Meta, the parent organization of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp shared this news during a press briefing last Thursday.

The Meta Elections Operation Center is a war room with subject matter experts from across the company on critical issues including misinformation, safety, human rights, and cybersecurity — similar to the ones established during the Brazilian and US elections in the past years. This team will include local experts who can speak the vernacular and have a deep understanding of the context on the ground.

Activating such a team is part of the company’s efforts to help protect the integrity of the upcoming Philippine election building on Meta’s attempts to understand and address how social media is used in the country related to this democratic exercise.

Using AI to Combat Hate Speech & Harmful Content

Meta will be using a Filipino-trained Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to help them proactively detect and remove hate speech, bullying, harassment, and content that violate their policies. The company also said that they are reducing the distribution of content that their technology identifies as likely to be violating the policies to prevent it from spreading quickly. If such content indeed violates Meta’s policies, it shall be removed following their review. At present, Meta has content moderators (in addition to Filipinos working across the company) who can review content in both Filipino and Cebuano.

Recently, they removed a network of Facebook Pages, Groups, and accounts maintained by the New People’s Army (NPA) — a banned terrorist organization — that violated their policies against dangerous organizations. This is in addition to removing over 400 accounts, Pages, and Groups in the Philippines that worked together to systematically violate Meta’s Community Standards and evade enforcement.

Meta stressed that the people behind this activity claimed to be hacktivists and relied primarily on authentic and duplicate accounts to post and amplify content about Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, account recovery, and defacing and compromising of primarily news entities’ websites in the Philippines.

The social media company also noted seeing inauthentic behavior operators from various countries being active on the margins of the upcoming elections in the Philippines. Some of the activities these inauthentic behavior operators do include context switching, deceptive efforts to pose as authentic communities, and inauthentic engagement.

The Fight Against Misinformation Continues

Meta has partnered with independent third-party fact-checkers in the Philippines — AFP (Agence France-Presse), Rappler, and Vera Files — to review and rate the accuracy of the content that does not violate their policies, as well as to provide additional context. The tech company also provided funding support to help these fact-checking partners increase their capacity to promote reliable information in the lead-up to the elections. All of Meta’s fact-checking partners in the country are certified by the nonpartisan International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) and review content in English and Filipino.

The company explained that when fact-checkers rate a piece of content as false, they reduce its distribution, notify people who share the content (or who have previously shared it) that the information is false or misleading, and they also add a warning label that links to the fact-checkers article disproving the claim.

In the coming weeks, labels will be added to fact-checked content that appears in Messenger in the Philippines. For Pages, groups, profiles, websites and Instagram accounts that repeatedly share content rated False or Altered, Meta will reduce the distribution of everything they post,  remove them and their posts from the recommendations shown to other users, and their ability to monetize and advertise on the Meta platforms.

To support capacity-building for fact-checking in the Philippines, Meta also launched the Philippine Fact-Checker Incubator Program with Internews. Incubated organizations include ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs, Manila Broadcasting Company, MindaNews, Philstar.com, PressONE.ph, and Probe Productions are encouraged to become IFCN certified to help bolster the fact-checking industry in the country.

Political Advertising Transparency

It is now required for advertisers in the Philippines to complete Meta’s ad authorization process and to include “Paid for by” disclaimers on ads about elections, politics, and certain categories of social issues. Last March 2022, Meta began requiring anyone running ads about certain categories of social issues in the country to get authorized and show the organization or person who is running the ad with disclaimers.

The company also said that ads about social issues, elections, or politics that run in the Philippines now also appear in the Ads Library for everyone to see what ads are running, who saw them, and how much was spent. The Ads Library is a fully searchable archive that stores these ads for seven (07) years.

 
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