Facebook acts against accounts for 'inauthentic behaviour'

Social media firm lays out steps it is taking to protect integrity of upcoming election

Social media giant Facebook has taken action against several accounts in Singapore for what it called "inauthentic behaviour", as it laid out several steps it said it is taking to protect the integrity of the upcoming general election.

Its head of public policy in Singapore, Ms Clara Koh, told reporters during a virtual press briefing yesterday that a set of accounts were found to have violated its inauthentic behaviour policies and were picked up as part of ongoing, proactive sweeps of its platforms.

Ms Koh said the accounts had misrepresented themselves, but she declined to provide details about the specific violations committed, the actions taken or how many accounts were involved.

"Ahead of the elections, we have been doing sweeps to ensure that we remove accounts that are impersonating candidates (and) elected officials," she said.

"We will continue to do our proactive work to look for, remove, or at least take action against accounts that are misrepresenting themselves on our platform."

In response to The Straits Times' queries, Facebook said it does not allow people to misrepresent themselves on its platform, use fake accounts, artificially boost the popularity of content, or engage in behaviour that enables other violations of its community standards.

"We remove these accounts once we are made aware of them," it said.

Facebook said it also cracks down on coordinated inauthentic behaviour that seeks to manipulate public debate using fake accounts. This includes domestic, non-government campaigns, or influence operations conducted on behalf of foreign or government actors. About half of the inauthentic behaviour seen on Facebook is carried out locally by people in the target country, said Ms Koh.

It is not clear if the inauthentic accounts discovered here were part of any coordinated campaign.

Singapore's next general election must be held by April 14 next year and Facebook has had teams focused on the upcoming polls since last July.

Besides removing fake accounts and threat actors, it also aims to reduce the spread of fake news, and has added news agency Reuters to its list of third-party fact checkers. The list includes news wire Agence France-Presse.

To counter foreign interference, Facebook enhanced its advertisement transparency measures here in September last year.

Those running advertisements about social issues, elections and politics need to verify their identity and disclose who is responsible for the ads.

Facebook is also launching an election day reminder service that will direct users to official information on the Elections Department's website. With the next general election likely to be held during the Covid-19 pandemic, much of the campaigning is expected to be held online, and the firm is engaging political parties to make sure candidates use its platforms effectively, like it did during South Korea's election in April.

Facebook has in recent years come under scrutiny over the potential for its platforms to be used as a tool to influence elections - most notably in the 2016 United States presidential election which saw alleged Russian interference.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2020, with the headline 'Facebook acts against accounts for 'inauthentic behaviour''. Subscribe