We believe Facebook can be a valuable force for democracy around the world, encouraging healthy debate, providing voters more direct access to their candidates and giving more people a voice in the political process. That is why we are focused on ensuring the integrity of elections on Facebook and we have learned a lot from our work around the world over the past few years.
We have developed a multi-faceted approach that includes removing fake accounts, preventing the spread of misinformation, disrupting coordinated inauthentic behaviour, increasing ads transparency and promoting civic engagement.
We have teams of people dedicated to protecting Sri Lanka’s upcoming elections and we look forward to ensuring that Facebook can play a positive role in the democratic process.
In fact, this past week we supported My First Vote organisation as they launched their campaign to encourage new voters to participate in this year’s presidential elections. At Facebook we are committed to free expression and respect for the democratic process. As a tool that gives voice to all people, regardless of background or belief and to do this we must ensure the safety, security and integrity across our platform.
Here are some of the specific ways we are working to strengthen our platform ahead of the November elections:
Working with local authorities to promote civic engagement
Democratic elections require an engaged population and Facebook is working with local authorities to encourage civic participation. Last month, on the invitation of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, we trained Election Commission officials, political parties and election monitors, among others on how best they can use the platform and empower their constituents. We have held several roundtables and product research sessions to discuss the specific needs of the Sri Lankan public and to better understand how our policies play out on the ground. Learnings from civil society help inform our product, policies and programs across the country.
In addition, we will be posting an election day reminder on our platform on voting day. Sri Lankans will be able to share with their friends that they already voted and seek more information about polling places for the election.
Fighting false information on our platform
We continue to focus on our efforts on fighting false information. False information plagues elections and is harmful to our community – this is why we are committed to combating the spread of misinformation in the lead up to the Sri Lankan elections next month.
Our dedicated elections teams, supported by the 30,000 globally working on safety and security, continue to work to detect and prevent malicious actors and abuse on Facebook. When we detect content and actors that violate our Community Standards, including fake accounts, which are a big distributor of misinformation and disrupt civic discourse, we will remove them. Specifically during this election period, we remove any misinformation that is designed to deter people from voting.
We have dedicated teams working around the clock to deal with any escalation and we continue to improve our technology to help us identify violating content and this year we expanded our automatic machine translation to include Sinhala and Tamil in order to help us better detect content we should remove from the platform for violating our policies.
In September, Fact Crescendo Sri Lanka joined AFP as our fact-checking partner for Sri Lanka. Our fact checking partners are an important part of our commitment to identify and inform the community on false news on Facebook. Not only does this help us to flag false information but their reports help reduce the distribution of false news, which means fewer people will see and share false content.
In addition to what we do to keep our platform safe, we are also committed to building a more informed community. This includes training of our community members to recognise misinformation and understands which sources to trust. Recently we trained news publishers in Colombo on our tools and best practice to ensure our platform connects people to the quality, trusted and local news that is most important to them. This is especially important during election periods when people want to be informed. We have also extended our trainings to school students and youth around Digital Safety and we also do invest in broader awareness programmes on how to use this global platform
We are absolutely committed to maintaining the integrity of the elections in Sri Lanka and will continue to work with local organisations, government groups and experts to ensure
(Natasha Jog is Policy Manager Elections at Facebook South Asia)