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Facebook steps up monitoring for Taiwan elections


(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 23, 2019 a giant digital sign is seen at Facebook’s corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. – Digital services company Cognizant on October 31, 2019, said it will stop its work to help filter vile content posted at online venues such as Facebook. The shift was portrayed by Cognizant as part of a plan by the New Jersey-based company to focus on services related to data, digital Engineering, cloud, and the internet-of-things. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP)

Facebook vowed Tuesday to step up monitoring for any attempt to use its platform to meddle in Taiwan’s elections as the island’s authorities say they face growing interference from China.

Taiwan will elect a new president and parliament on January 11, and relations with the mainland are dominating the campaign.

Beijing has ramped up Taiwan’s isolation ever since President Tsai Ing-wen took office three years ago because her party refuses to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of “one China”.


Tsai is seeking a second term against Han Kuo-yu, a challenger who favours much warmer ties with Beijing.

She and her party have accused Beijing of attempting to influence the elections by spreading disinformation via social media.

On Tuesday Facebook said it would establish a regional election centre in Singapore in the final weeks before Taiwan’s elections, following similar moves in the United States, India, Indonesia and the European Union.

“Protecting elections at the company is a major priority for us,” Kate Harbath, Facebook’s public policy director and global elections lead, told reporters via a videoconference in Taipei.

“Now we are heavily focused on these upcoming elections in Taiwan,” she added, as well as upcoming polls in countries including Sri Lanka and Singapore.

“Each election has different risks,” she said, adding that the company starts a year before an election to assess what is involved.

Facebook said it currently has 40 teams that focus on elections, to increase transparency, reduce misinformation and harmful content, as well as removing inaccurate voting information or any content that violates community standards such as hate messages.

“Our product teams are building tooling to better monitor… in order for us to be able to take quicker action and we can respond to those things in realtime,” Harbath said.

Faced with criticism that the site has been used to manipulate polls, Facebook has been under mounting pressure to improve how its spots meddling and misinformation, as well as scrutinising political adverts.

It will introduce strict criteria for political ads in Taiwan, requiring those who want to advertise about elections and politics to confirm their identity and location, and disclose who is responsible for the ad.

Facebook said it has also been working with third-party checkers, including an independent fact-checking organisation in Taiwan.

In a global initiative set to start mid-November, the social network will also step up a system that makes clear when information comes from state-controlled media outlets.

Facebook in August removed hundreds of fake accounts it said was involved in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” focused on Hong Kong’s ongoing protests.

Since the protests began Beijing’s well-oiled state media machinery has launched a global propaganda campaign both online and on social media.

Facebook said it has not detected such moves targeting Taiwan election so far.


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