Facebook recently announced that it has introduced a “cyber threats crisis” email hotline for politicians and political parties in India. The social media giant, recently embroiled in a major controversy over misuse of private data, is also working on an “election integrity” microsite for India, reports Times of India.
The announcement comes a day after the company, co-founded by Mark Zuckerberg, submitted its responses to the union government’s questions on user privacy and election integrity – the government’s second such round of questions to the company.
How does it work?
Compromised accounts and even the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), which works under union ministry of electronics and IT, can write to [email protected] in case of a security breach.
Facebook also released a “cybersecurity guide” for political accounts. These include basic security practices such as setting up two-factor authentication and not clicking on dubious links.
“At times, a few sophisticated bad actors will seek to target high-profile political figures and those connected to them to undermine democratic discourse online. This cybersecurity guide provides best practices for politicians and political parties on how to keep your Facebook pages and Facebook accounts secure. We are also making available to politicians and political parties in India a special Cyber Threats Crisis Email Line for compromised Facebook pages and accounts. These efforts are part of Facebook’s broader Indian Election Integrity Initiative,”
says a note attached to the guide.
“We are also in the process of building our elections integrity microsite where we will be putting out dynamic updates to what we are doing in terms of education, enforcement, and what we are doing with fact-checking partners,”
Facebook’s public policy director for India and South and Central Asia, Ankhi Das reportedly said.
Facebook partnered with Indian fact-checking website Boom Live last month to flag pieces of misinformation on the website. Content reported as fake news is downranked on the social network to prevent it from going viral, Das said.
Facebook had announced last October that it would roll out a feature, where political and issue-based ads would be marked as such, and carry a disclosure on sponsorship. This feature will be extended to India ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Classifying such political ads will be done after expert consultations.
“We are working very hard to pull together a group of experts who have eminence and of course, the election commission has very detailed guidelines in terms of what they perceive to be advertising online,”
Das said on identifying political and issue-based ads.
The Cambridge Analytica Scam and the Indian government
On April 25, the Indian government sent a set of questions to Facebook, asking it to detail a proposed security architecture “so that data concerning Indians are not pilfered or manipulated again for extraneous purposes including to influence the elections.” This was weeks after the Cambridge Analytica scandal unfolded. A whistleblower from the UK-based political consultancy revealed how Facebook users’ data was used to influence American voters ahead of the 2016 elections in the USA.
The union government had set a deadline of May 10 for responses, even as it sent a parallel questionnaire to Cambridge Analytica. Facebook had disclosed last month that 5.62 lakh Indian Facebook users were “potentially affected” by the data breach.
In its reply to the queries of the Indian government, the company said it focused on changes in policy concerning data access by third-party apps and its investments towards “election integrity” and towards preventing the spread of misinformation.
Last month, Zuckerberg had appeared before US lawmakers in a public hearing to answer questions on data misuse on his platform.