Thursday, October 22, 2020
Home Editor's picks Social Media giants need to open their doors to transparency

Social Media giants need to open their doors to transparency

Facebook head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher wrote in his blog post that 687 Facebook accounts, pages, and groups were associated with the IT cell of main Opposition party Indian National Congress (INC) while 15 such accounts, pages, and groups belonged to an Indian information and technology firm Silver Touch.

2016 US Presidential Elections were perhaps the most poorly disciplined elections in the modern history of the global economic superpower. Both the candidates, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton were accused of deploying targeted social media misinformation against each other. Rumours spread so far and wild, that a false story was created accusing Clinton of being involved in child trafficking by hiding children slaves in major pizza stores across the USA. The worst part was, millions of people believed the story, complained pizza stores and some even fired guns at them. Social media’s power to influence the human mind had been established by then.

In the USA, more almost 2/3rd of the adults get their news from social media – where the boundaries between truth and rumours are hard to judge. This is a pattern anywhere in the world. India, with one of the lowest data rates and now multi-lingual mobile phones, is becoming a social media-driven nation. Increasingly, people believe news being shared on Whatsapp and other messengers without checking their sources, which in any case is a complicated task.

Social media giants did get a wake-up to post US elections including when Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and many other tech leaders were asked to appear before the US Senate and explain their policies. Facebook, the company which also owns Instagram and Whatsapp, came under the worst fire – losing 20% of value in a matter of a few days following the inquiry.

This is when the social media giants decided to control the political content and advertising in all elections around the world. India’s 2019 Lok Sabha elections became a centre-stage for this – with both Twitter and Facebook coming up with political campaign policies. But this is still a test, little more than an experiment.

With the biggest carnival of democracy around the corner, one of the biggest social media giants Facebook on Monday announced that it has taken down over 700 pages, accounts and groups from its platform as well as from its unit Instagram in India. This was their effort to control the spread of misinformation on the social media platform.

Facebook head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher wrote in his blog post that 687 Facebook accounts, pages, and groups were associated with the IT cell of main Opposition party Indian National Congress (INC) while 15 such accounts, pages, and groups belonged to an Indian information and technology firm Silver Touch.

The blog post also mentioned the fact that the accounts and pages which belonged to the INC had spent about Rs. 30 lakhs and the pages associated with Silver Touch spend about twice their amount, over 50 lakhs on ads to promote their content on Facebook since 2014. But hold on. If you think this is amount is a lot, then consider that Facebook earned over Rs. 521 crores in 2018 from ads – a significant part of them being politically motivated as one can guess, though Facebook does not disclose the exact amount.

Go beyond the surface and this whole issue highlights two things.

First, the practice of using social media as a platform to spread political misinformation and rumours. 700 pages with combined users of about 28 lakhs being banned also make us question the credibility of the content which we see on social media platforms. The majority of jokes, memes, data, images, and quotations that we easily believe and share forward are coming from such paid accounts. Many of the twitter accounts one follow and trusts are often only in the name of individuals but run by a whole team of experts behind them.

The second issue raises the question of the transparency of Facebook itself. Interestingly, social media giants have little capacity within Indian borders to determine or take any action against political content but rely on US-based centralized teams to do this job. One can wonder what kind of team halfway across the world can determine content spread across Facebook (or any other social media company) runs on a model where the US-based bosses have almost total control on their operations in India – their policies, rates, content, and technology.

In such a scenario, one can question what is the mechanism by which Facebook will ban or allow content? What is the way to appeal against it? And above, what percentage of its money is Facebook making from political promotions. There are lakhs of political pages and accounts and potentially hundreds of crores Facebook is making in ad revenues from India. Merely removing 700 accounts with less than Rs. 1 crore revenue over 4 years should NOT be the end of this discussion – much more needs to be known and told by the social media firms to the public.

But it will not easy.

Technology companies are huge. Apple, the biggest in the sector, is worth about 75 lakh crore rupees while Facebook, which is no more than a computer program, is as big as 45 lakh crore rupees, almost equal to the GDP of Pakistan and Bangladesh, put together. Facebook creates this wealth with its 36,000 employees, while Pakistan and Bangladesh earn this GDP from its 36 crores population.  Can any government agency regulate such giants, especially they hardly understand the underlying facts behind them? Or should the users demand additional transparency and self-regulation? There is not one answer to this question – and the way social media plays out during the 2019 elections will be an interesting result in the global context of this debate.

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Srijan Pal Singhhttp://srijanpalsingh.in
Srijan Pal Singh is an author, public speaker, education innovator and social entrepreneur. Currently, he is CEO and Co-Founder of Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam Centre, a non-profit organization working on integrated missions across multiple dimensions in an effort to continue on the vision and works of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He studied Engineering at Institute of Engineering & Technology, Lucknow and further went to Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad to study management. He was awarded the GOLD MEDAL for the best All-rounder Student of the 2009 batch at IIM-A and was also the President of the Student’s Council there. He has served as Officer on Special Duty and Advisor (Policy and Technology) at the Office of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam where he worked as a close aide to the 11th president of India on various consulting works.

Related Articles

Trending now

Remembering Lalu’s Jungle Raj in Bihar: When an IAS officer’s wife was raped for two years by an RJD leader

During Lalu's Jungle Raj in Bihar, IAS Officer BB Vishwas's wife Chamba Biswas was raped for 2 years by RJD leader Mrityunjay Yadav

“Your outrage against Hinduphobic content on OTT platforms may actually be fuelling more such content”- Here is what an industry insider says

OTT platforms are not hit if a movie or a series if boycotted for Hinduphobic content as people have already paid for subscription

No, India Today, Katrina Kaif in yellow saree for Navratri is not offensive to Hindus, this is where you got it wrong

India Today tries to be holier than thou while trying to paint Hindus as trolls over Eros Now's vulgar Navratri posts

CM Yogi distributes relief amount of Rs 113.21 crore among the flood-affected farmers in Uttar Pradesh

CM Yogi distributed the relief amount to the flood-affected farmers in 19 districts of the state by online transaction.

‘Mughal Prince Tucy’ lashes out on AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi, calls him ‘Bewakoof, and Gadha’

Prince Tucy said that when the people of Hyderabad are dealing with horrific floods, MP Asaduddin Owaisi is busy doing poll campaign in Bihar.

Is Modi govt giving Coronavirus vaccines for ‘free’ only to Bihar? No, that’s not how it works

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday while releasing the BJP manifesto in Bihar for upcoming elections said that the BJP promises free coronavirus vaccines in Bihar, whenever the vaccine is made available.

Recently Popular

UK: 37-year-old paedophile named Rehan Baig jailed for raping chickens to death while his wife filmed it

Rhan Baig's wife had also joined him in the videos and at one point he alternated between having sex with his wife and the chickens.

Eros Now apologises for publishing vulgar Hinduphobic content on Navratri

After netizens outraged over vulgar posts on Navratri, Eros Now issued an apology.

‘Comedian’ Agrima Joshua, who calls herself ‘feminist’, passes offensive sexual comments against woman due to political differences

Agrima Joshua had earlier found herself in a controversy after insulting the Shivaji Maharaj memorial during a performance.

Remember Sheena Bora case? Param Bir Singh was the IG of Konkan range, the site where her body was dumped

Param Bir Singh knew that Sheena Bora was missing. He had asked Rahul Mukerjea to file a 'missing persons' report. Sheena, however, was never reported as 'missing'.

Paris: Two Muslim women stabbed under Eiffel Tower by white women shouting “dirty Arabs”

Two Muslim women were stabbed repeatedly under the Eiffel Tower on Sunday night by two white women who called them "dirty Arabs".

France: Charlie Hebdo cartoons projected on government building to express solidarity with deceased teacher who was beheaded by Islamic terrorist

Days after the barbaric beheading of teacher Samuel Paty on the streets of Paris by a terrorist for showing the cartoons of Prophet Mohammad to his students, support continues to pour in for the deceased teacher.
- Advertisement -

Chhattisgarh police file FIR against video journalist who had reported on farmer protests based on an allegedly edited video

Video journalist Manish Soni had reported about the plight of farmers whose paddy crops were ruined due to anti-encroachment drive

Reducing Navratri to ‘mating dance’, comparing Holi with terrorism— how the Indian media has turned Hinduphobic

After Eros Now posted series of vulgar messages associated with Navratri, far-left site Arre posted a Hinduphobic tweet on Durga puja

Remembering Lalu’s Jungle Raj in Bihar: When an IAS officer’s wife was raped for two years by an RJD leader

During Lalu's Jungle Raj in Bihar, IAS Officer BB Vishwas's wife Chamba Biswas was raped for 2 years by RJD leader Mrityunjay Yadav

“Your outrage against Hinduphobic content on OTT platforms may actually be fuelling more such content”- Here is what an industry insider says

OTT platforms are not hit if a movie or a series if boycotted for Hinduphobic content as people have already paid for subscription

Mumbai Police threatens Republic TV executive editor with imprisonment for refusing to reveal source of Hansa report in TRP scam

Republic TV Executive Editor warned by Mumabi Police that he will be booked under IPC sections 174 and 179 if does not give source of Hansa report

No, India Today, Katrina Kaif in yellow saree for Navratri is not offensive to Hindus, this is where you got it wrong

India Today tries to be holier than thou while trying to paint Hindus as trolls over Eros Now's vulgar Navratri posts

UP: Police find conversion of over 200 people to Buddhism fake, people were asked to sign conversion papers disguised as govt scheme

After reports of 236 Valmiki community members converting to Buddhisim, police find no evidence of conversion in Karehra village

Lucknow: Jama Mazar caretaker ‘Kale Baba’ caught running sex racket, video goes viral

The caretaker has allegedly confessed to police that he was sexually exploiting women and engaging them in illicit activities in the name of curing infertility and other ailments.

Meghalaya: Khasi student body puts up racist posters saying “All Meghalaya Bengalis are Bangladeshis”

The banners put up by Khasi Students Union read, ''All Meghalaya Bengalis are Bangladeshis'' and "Khasiland for Khasis; Foreigners Go Away".

CM Yogi distributes relief amount of Rs 113.21 crore among the flood-affected farmers in Uttar Pradesh

CM Yogi distributed the relief amount to the flood-affected farmers in 19 districts of the state by online transaction.

Connect with us

245,563FansLike
465,990FollowersFollow
18,800SubscribersSubscribe