Here's how global tech giants are tackling 'fake news' ahead of elections in the world's largest democracy

Here's how global tech giants are tackling 'fake news' ahead of elections in the world's largest democracy
(Left to right) Google's CEO Sunder Pichai, Facebook's co-founder, CEO and chairman Mark Zuckerberg and, Twitter's co-founder and CEO Jack DorseyBusiness Insider

  • Google announced its plans to launch a ‘Advertising Transparency Report’ and a ‘Political Ads Library’ ahead of the general elections in India on Tuesday.
  • Facebook and Twitter have asserted that will be putting an online library of election advertisements in place for public access.
  • The global tech companies are implementing a rigorous verification process from advertisers in India in order for them to be able to air their ads online.
  • It's not just about political ads on Google, Twitter or Facebook but also Instagram, YouTube and any other platform that uses Adsense or Adwords for ad revenue.
The world is still recuperating from the Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal from last year and technology companies are hedging their bets worldwide.

As the world’s largest democracy — India — prepares of its general elections, Google and Facebook are trying to ensure that everything is on the up-and-up. Especially since it wasn’t too long ago that the Indian government was considering blocking social media apps altogether to hedge against unrest for the duration of the elections.

The search giant, Google, just announced that they will be launching their own ‘Advertising Transparency Report’ and a ‘Political Ads Library’ in India. Both, the report and the library, will allegedly provide comprehensive information about who is purchasing election ads on Google’s platforms and how much money is being spent.

"In 2019, over 850 million Indians are expected to cast their vote to elect the country's next government. We're thinking hard about elections and how we continue to support democratic processes in India and around the world."

Chetan Krishnaswamy, Director-Public Policy, Google India

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Facebook made a similar announcement in December where it said it would set up an ‘online search ad library’ and made it mandatory for advertisers to disclose their identity and location for verification.

"By authorising advertisers and bringing more transparency to ads, we can better defend against foreign interference in India's elections."

Facebook blog

Even Twitter is on the ‘online library’ bandwagon with its ‘Ads Transparency Centre’ announced on January 10, that is yet to roll out.

“Twitter is heavily used by the influencers and the politicians and the government in India, so we’re very fortunate in that degree. And we want to make sure that we are doing what we can to make sure that we maintain the integrity of the conversation around the election.”

Jack Dorsey, Twitter Chief Executive Office (CEO)

Putting the right checks in place

It’s not just Facebook that’s looking for verification, but Google as well. They recently updated its election ads policy, which now requires advertisers to provide a ‘pre-certificate’ issued by the Election Commision of India (ECI) for each political ad that they plan on running. The advertisers, themselves, will also have to verify their identity in order to run ads in the first place.

In order to keep voters in the loop, Google’s also going to tailor its algorithm so that electoral information from the ECI and other ‘authoritative sources’ will be easily discovered on Google Search.

It’s important to remember that Google Ads are everywhere, not just when you’re on Google’s Search Engine. This includes YouTube and whichever sites have Adsense and Adwords on their portal.

Facebook — and its subsidiary Instagram — will be doing their part by running disclaimers on all advertorial content related to the elections on its platform. Any information about how much of spent, the range of impressions, and the demographics of who actually viewed the advertisement will be publicly available through its library.

Facebook’s verification process is already gone live, but Google will only be accepting requests starting February 14.

Media spending on advertising already shot up ahead of the 5-state assembly election in December. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) even capitalised on Facebook’s ‘10 Year Challenge’ by creating their own ‘5 Year Challenge’ on Facebook.

See also:
This app lets you 'review' politicians in India

Facebook's '10 Year Challenge' takes a political dimension in India

India's elections are rigged, claims an American 'expert'