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Facebook vows to protect integrity of May PHL midterm polls

Social media giant Facebook on Thursday said it is stepping up its campaign to protect the integrity of the upcoming May midterm elections in the Philippines by cracking down on fake accounts and fake news.

At a press briefing, Katie Harbath, director of Facebook's Global Politics and Government Outreach team, said the social media firm is aiming for a "more informed electorate" this poll season.

"The goal of Facebook in elections is to make it harder to interfere with elections on the platform, and easier for people to make their voices heard in the political process," Harbath said.

"The goal of our work has always been connected to our mission, about better connecting people to those who will represent them and other citizens who are interested in same issues as they are," she added.

Harbath said Facebook is presently focusing on five main areas to maintain the Philippines' election integrity:

  • Cracking down on fake accounts;
  • Reducing the distribution of false news;
  • Making advertising more transparent;
  • Disrupting bad actors; and
  • Supporting an informed electorate

Harbath said Facebook is committed to monitor all forms of "inauthentic behavior and abuse" which may heighten during poll period such as misinformation, misrepresentation and foreign interference, phishing, harassment, and violent threats.

"We have dedicated teams working on every upcoming election around the world. It's incredibly important to us as a company that we get this right," Harbath said.

Facebook also disclosed that it is closely coordinating with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) so that a couple of training about online safety for field officers will be conducted as well as ensuring that the online platform will be utilized properly to share election updates.

Meanwhile, Harbath also said Facebook is using "artificial intelligence" to identify over 99.6 percent of fake accounts, adding that 30,000 individuals across the globe are working to ensure safety and security in the online platform.

"The more work we can do to take down fake accounts really helps us with this issue. Most bad actors are not using their real names and they are not using their real accounts to try to do activities on our platform," Harbath said.

"Our work here is really how can we do more in reducing distribution of false news and giving people more context to the news that they are seeing," she added.

According to Harbath, Facebook has third party fact-checkers to help in taking down misinformation that may contribute to "online harm."

She added that Facebook is working on making advertisements "more transparent."

"We added an info on ads tab to any page on Facebook... You can see information when the page is created and if there has been page name changes and the country location," Harbath said.

"This can help users to have more information about these pages that might be trying to influence them or their political discourse," she added.

Harbath said Facebook would again set up an election reminder for social media users.

"It gives them more opportunity to see more on the election and find where they need to go, what information they need as well as encourage them to share it with their friends," Harbath said.

"Studies have shown that people are more likely to vote if they see their friends voting," she added. — RSJ, GMA News