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Facebook and Twitter under scrutiny for role in polls overseas


PETALING JAYA: Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have come under increasing scrutiny for their role in recent elections overseas, and received criticism for failure to act on viral fake news.

In the United States, federal lawmakers have criticised Google, Facebook and Twitter for not doing enough to spot and block Russian agents from buying ads on their services and manipulating the polls.

Russia has denied that it interfered in the US elections, which saw Donald Trump elected president.

In September, Facebook admitted that an operation that was probably based in Russia spent US$100,000 (RM400,000) on US advertisements promoting social and political messages over a two-year period.

It recently agreed to provide the contents of 3,000 advertisements bought by a Russian agency to an investigation by the US Congress into whether or not these influenced voters in the 2016 elections.

According to CNN, Facebook also announced that it had taken down thousands of fake accounts in the run-up to the elections in Germany.

In July last year, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak said action had been taken against almost 1,500 fake social media accounts by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) between January and June.

He said the MCMC had received complaints that the accounts were being used for negative purposes such as spreading fake news.

The fake accounts were found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, among others.

When The Star reached out to Facebook, it issued a statement saying that when it comes to fighting false news, one of the most effective approaches is removing the economic incentives for traffickers of misinformation.

“These spammers make money by masquerading as legitimate news publishers and posting hoaxes that get people to visit their sites, which are often mostly ads.

“Some of the steps we’re taking include applying machine learning to assist our response teams in detecting fraud and enforcing our policies against inauthentic spam accounts and updating our detection of fake accounts on Facebook, which makes spamming at scale much harder,” it said.

In its response to The Star, Twitter pointed to its blog, which states that it prohibits the use of bots and other “networks of manipulation”.

“We’re working hard to detect spammy behaviour at the source, such as the mass distribution of Tweets or attempts to manipulate trending topics.

“We reduce the visibility of potentially spammy Tweets or accounts as we investigate ... when we detect duplicative or suspicious activity, we suspend accounts,” it said.

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