Facebook attracts attention as Mexican presidential elections start

Omar Aladin, Sunday 1 Jul 2018

A drive within Facebook to crack down on fake news comes after the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook was accused of unduly influencing the 2016 US electoral process

An electoral official (R) aids voters at a polling station during the presidential election in Mexico City, Mexico, July 1, 2018. (REUTERS)

As campaigns closed Wednesday ahead of Mexico's presidential elections, Facebook remains a headliner of the scene with almost 54 million Mexican Facebook users, raising questions for some on its responsibilities regarding the integrity of the polls.

Kicked off on Sunday, the elections sees constant dominance of candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as Amlo), facing candidates Ricardo Anaya, Antonio Meade and Jaime Rodríguez.

Only one day before the campaigns were concluded, Facebook Cybersecurity Policy head Nathaniel Gleicher announced that the titan company took down more than 10,000 fake pages, groups and accounts in Mexico and across Latin America as a precautionary measure ahead of the elections.

According to Gleicher, Facebook also took down 837 million pieces of spam, 2.5 million pieces of hate speech and disabled 583 million fake accounts globally in the first quarter of 2018.

The purge was due to fake news and other content which, according to Gleicher, broke Facebook's policies on coordinated harm and misleading behaviour.

This spring, a fabricated image claiming that Amlo's wife was the granddaughter of a Nazi was shared on Facebook 8,000 times before it was proven fake.

"There is no place on Facebook for this kind of behaviour," Gleicher stated, "and we’re investing heavily in both people and technology to keep bad content off our services."

The drive comes after the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook was accused of unduly influencing the 2016 US electoral process.

Cambridge Analytica used data, according to Facebook provided by Global Science Research (GSR), a firm started by Aleksandr Kogan, to influence the US elections in favour of Donald Trump.

The data was collected from a Facebook personality quiz called "thisisyourdigitallife" created by GSR which was labelled a research experiment to be used by scientists to build psychological profiles.

The scandal led Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to face tough questions in a congressional testimony and an investigation opened by the Federal Trade Commission.

Resolved to prevent a repeat of abuses of its platform, Facebook hired thousands of content moderators and fact-checkers deploying artificial intelligence and conducting large sweeps of problematic accounts, as well as co-funding with the local branch of Al-Jazeera Mexico’s first independent fact-checking organisation. "Verificado."

"This kind of action is especially important in the run-up to elections," said Gleicher, "when people use Facebook to connect with candidates, debate hard issues, and get information about the decisions they face."

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