Facebook makes headway against online abuses ahead of India election

Facebook has toughened the rules in India and political ads now include ‘published by’ and ‘paid by’ disclaimers. (AP)
Updated 08 April 2019
0

Facebook makes headway against online abuses ahead of India election

  • India, where Facebook has more users than in any other country, is shaping up as a major test
  • Facebook has partnered with seven fact-checkers in India

MENLO PARK, California: Facebook has said it has made strides in its efforts to prevent online abuses in the Indian national election that starts this week but acknowledged that gaps remain in its “election integrity” efforts.
During a media tour of the company’s election operations center at its Menlo Park headquarters in California on Friday, company officials touted new fact-checking efforts for suppressing misinformation and technological advances such as the ability to detect when videos had been doctored.
But Katie Harbath, Facebook’s public policy director for global elections, said measures including a better system for verifying the buyers of political advertisements remained imperfect and called for more government regulation of ad-spending disclosures.
Excoriated for failing to stop Russian manipulation in the 2016 US presidential vote, Facebook has ramped up efforts to prevent abuses in subsequent elections, including the 2018 American midterms and the recent Brazilian and Mexican contests. Governments in many countries, including India and the UK, are contemplating strict new regulations for social media companies.
India, where Facebook has more users than in any other country, is shaping up as a major test. On April 1, the company said it had removed more than 500 accounts and 138 pages linked to India’s opposition Congress party for “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” Facebook’s term for the use of fake accounts and other deceptive methods to promote a message.
It also took down a page with 2 million followers which, according to Facebook’s review partner Atlantic Council think tank, was “pro-BJP” (India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party) and a supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Harbath said the company can now quickly detect viral, politically sensitive stories and refer them for fact-checking by outside organizations. The officials also touted heavy investment in technology for detecting doctored videos and text inside pictures, but acknowledged that that they have been unable to stop some duplicates of videos that have been identified as spurious.
Facebook has partnered with seven fact-checkers in India. If a post is found to be untrue, the company says it reduces the circulation of such fake posts by more than 80 percent, but slightly modified versions of the same images, video or text can escape detection and spread further.
Reuters earlier this month found instances of edited posts circulating on Facebook which the company’s own fact-checkers had said were false.
Deceptive political advertising has become another hot-button problem for the company. Facebook has toughened the rules in India and political ads now include “published by” and “paid by” disclaimers. Users can also access a library that allows them to search and find out more about political advertisements.
Harbath said political ad purchases in India now require either a certificate from the Election Commission or a physical address in India, as well as a phone number and group name of the entity purchasing the ad.
While Facebook will check that the address and phone number are legitimate, the company agreed that the same person could make up multiple entities at the same address, without any available record of the original source of money.
“This is a great example, we think, of where there needs to be more regulation,” Harbath said.


Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

Updated 18 July 2019
0

Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

  • India is among the last big growth markets for the company
  • Netflix faces competition from Amazon’s Prime Video and Walt Disney Co’s Hotstar
Netflix said on Wednesday it would roll out a lower-priced mobile-only plan in India within the next three months to tap into a price-sensitive market at a time the streaming company is losing customers in its home turf.
India is among the last big growth markets for the company, where it faces competition from Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video and Hotstar, a video streaming platform owned by Walt Disney Co’s India unit.
Netflix lost US streaming customers for the first time in eight years on Wednesday, when it posted quarterly results. It also missed targets for new subscribers overseas.
“India is a mobile-first nation, where many first-time users are experiencing the Internet on their phones. In such a scenario, a mobile-only package makes sense to target new users,” said Tarun Pathak, analyst at Counterpoint Research.
The creator of “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” said in March that it was testing a 250-rupee ($3.63) monthly subscription for mobile devices in India, where data plans are among the cheapest in the world.
The country figures prominently in Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings’ global expansion plans.
“We believe this plan, which will launch in the third quarter, will be an effective way to introduce a larger number of people in India to Netflix and to further expand our business,” the company said in a letter to investors released late on Wednesday.
Netflix currently offers three monthly plans in India, priced between 500 rupees ($7.27) and 800 rupees $11.63).
It has created a niche following in the country by launching local original shows like the thriller “Sacred Games” and dystopian tale “Leila,” which feature popular Bollywood actors.
The second season of “Sacred Games” is set to release in August.
In contrast, Hotstar, which also offers content from AT&T Inc’s HBO and also streams live sports, charges 299 rupees ($4.35) per month. Amazon bundles its video and music streaming services with its Prime membership.
“We’ve been seeing nice steady increases in engagement with our Indian viewers that we think we can keep building on. Growth in that country is a marathon, so we’re in it for the long haul,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said.