Ahead of the upcoming election season in the country, Facebook is taking active steps to curb the spread of misinformation on its platform. Facebook said on Monday it was removing 687 pages and accounts linked to the Congress party, just days before voting begins for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, because of "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" on the social media platform. The announcement marks a rare action from Facebook against a prominent political party in a country where it has more than 300 million users, the highest in the world.
Also with an eye on the Lok Sabha Elections, Facebook has launched a new Candidate Connect feature that allows the Lok Sabha candidates to share 20-second-long videos with their messages with the Facebook users in India. These videos will appear in the users' News Feeds based on their constituency. Facebook has also introduced a 'Paid by for' label to mark the ads that have been paid for by advertisers. It has also introduced an Ad Library, that would provide detailed information regarding political ads in the country.
The social media giant came under immense scrutiny after it failed to prevent the spread of false information during the 2016 U.S. elections when allegations of outside interference resulted in Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testifying in the U.S. Senate. Facebook-owned messaging applications such as WhatsApp have been repeatedly scrutinized by the Indian government and security agencies and asked to prevent the spread of false information and rumors that have been linked to mob killings.
Social media companies have presented a "Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Elections 2019" to the election monitoring body, a new requirement this year. India reportedly has the highest number of Facebook users in the world, with more than 300 million. That is about a third of the 900 million people eligible to vote in 2019.