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Facebook announces new tools to protect 2020 US elections

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San Francisco, Oct 21 : Stung by spread of fake news and privacy violations, Facebook on Monday announced several new tools to protect 2020 US elections from being manipulated by nation-state bad actors, and avoid the repeat of 2018 presidential elections hit by Russian interference.

The social networking giant launched “Facebook Protect” to secure the accounts of elected officials, candidates, their staff and others who may be particularly vulnerable to targeting by hackers and foreign adversaries.

“Beginning today, Page admins can enroll their organization’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in ‘Facebook Protect’ and invite members of their organization to participate in the programme as well,” said three top Facebook executives in a lengthy blog post.

Participants will be required to turn on two-factor authentication, and their accounts will be monitored for hacking, such as login attempts from unusual locations or unverified devices.

“If we discover an attack against one account, we can review and protect other accounts affiliated with that same organization that are enrolled in our programme,” said Guy Rosen, VP of Integrity at Facebook.

The company said it has seen people failing to disclose the organization behind their Page as a way to make people think that a Page is run independently.

To address this, Facebook is adding more information about who is behind a Page, including a new “Organizations That Manage This Page” tab that will feature the Page’s “Confirmed Page Owner”, including the organization’s legal name and verified city, phone number or website.

Initially, this information will only appear on Pages with large US audiences that have gone through Facebook’s business verification.

A new US Presidential candidate spend tracker will share ad details across national, state and regional levels.

“We’ll also make it clear if an ad ran on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, or the Audience Networks,” said Facebook.

Next month, Facebook will begin labelling media outlets that are wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government as state-controlled media.

This label will be on both their Page and in Facebook Ad Library.

“We will hold these Pages to a higher standard of transparency because they combine the opinion-making influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state,” said Katie Harbath, Public Policy Director, Global Elections.

Facebook said it will update the list of state-controlled media on a rolling basis beginning in November.

In early 2020, Facebook plans to expand its labeling to specific posts and apply these labels on Instagram as well.

The company said that over the next month, content across Facebook and Instagram that has been rated false or partly false by a third-party fact-checker will start to be more prominently labeled so that people can better decide for themselves what to read, trust and share.

“The labels below will be shown on top of false and partly false photos and videos, including on top of Stories content on Instagram, and will link out to the assessment from the fact-checker,” informed Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy and Rob Leathern, Director of Product Management.

Facebook also announced an initial investment of $2 million to support projects that empower people to determine what to read and share – both on Facebook and elsewhere.

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Election

Supreme Court moved over discrepancies in 2019 Lok Sabha poll data

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Lok Sabha Election 2019

New Delhi, Nov 20 : Two non-government organisations (NGOs) have moved the Supreme Court seeking a probe into alleged discrepancies in the voter turnout data and votes counted in 347 constituencies in the 2019 general election.

“There have been serious discrepancies in the number of voters in different constituencies (i.e. the voter turnout data collated and provided by the Election Commission) and the number of votes counted,” said the plea filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the Common Cause.

The NGOs have clarified that the plea didn’t challenge the Lok Sabha election results, or the process adopted to conduct polls.

They contended that the EC declared results of the election on provisional figures and without determining the exact vote count and without due reconciliation of the discrepancies in various constituencies.

“The EC has not laid down any prescribed system for compiling, reconciliation and publishing of poll data and therefore, has been evading placing the methodology followed by it, in public domain”, the petition stated.

It sought a direction to the EC to place the information in statutory forms — 17C, 20, 21C, 21D and 21E — for the general elections and all future elections, in public domain.

The discrepancies between the actual voter turnout and provisional data in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as pointed out were significant and couldn’t be set aside without a satisfactory resolution of the same, it said.

“The current statute has a procedure for resolution of a dispute through an election petition, but no provision for resolution of the doubts arising out of discrepancies in a large number of constituencies all over the country,” it said.

The plea highlighted the dereliction of duty by the EC in declaring results of the Lok Sabha and Assemblies through electronic voting machines (EVMs) based on accurate and indisputable data which is put in public domain.

The petitioners said, the discrepancies ranged from 1 to 1,01,323 votes, which was 10.49 per cent of the total votes.

However, there was no particular co-relation with any party regarding discrepancies found in its research, the ADR added.

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Rajasthan civic polls: Congress sweeps 961 seats, BJP wins 737

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Jaipur, Nov 19 : The Congress on Tuesday secured a clear edge over its political rivals in Rajasthan as its 961 candidates won from 2,105 wards in local body polls held in 49 civic units in 24 districts.

Main rival BJP won on 737 seats making it the other second big party in the race. The BSP had its 16 candidates win while CPI(M) marked their victory on three seats. The NCP won two seats in the state.

A total of 386 independents won in the polls, said Chief Electoral Officer Shyam Singh Rajpurohit.

Speaking on the victory, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said, “The results have come to our expectations. We are happy to see people giving us a strong mandate yet again looking at our work and performance. We would like to solve people’s grievances with priority. If people have trusted us, we would love to work meeting their expectations and aspirations.”

Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot credited the victory to Congress workers who he said worked hard to meet people’s expectations.

“People have been showering their blessings continuously in all elections looking at our work. Congress got majority in many units on which I congratulate people and Congress.”

The voting for election of presidents/chairpersons of municipalities/corporations shall be held on November 26 while the elections for vice-presidents are on November 27, said Rajpurohit.

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High stakes for Congress in Karnataka by-elections

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Bengaluru, Nov 18 : The beleaguered opposition Congress in Karnataka faces an uphill task in retaining its Assembly seats in the December 5 by-elections, as it faces an upbeat ruling BJP and an estranged Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) ally at the hustings.

“The task is cut out for the Congress to retain 12 of the 15 poll-bound Assembly seats in the state that fell vacant, as it faces 11 of its former rebels as BJP candidates in their strongholds in triangular contests where secular votes will get divided between the two former allies,” a political analyst told IANS ahead of the crucial by-elections.

The JD-S is also bracing to retain the three Assembly seats from where its rebel lawmakers resigned and joined the BJP to contest and win to maintain their hold in the constituencies, including two in the old Mysuru region and one in Bengaluru.

Though the Supreme Court on November 13 upheld the former speaker’s order disqualifying all the 17 legislators, including 14 from Congress and three from JD-S, it allowed them to contest in the by-polls, much to the chagrin of the two opposition parties, which was hoping to retain them without facing the powerful defectors.

“The apex court’s decision to allow the defectors to contest in the by-elections by quashing the speaker’s order of preventing them from contesting till the 5-year Assembly term ended in 2023 has upset the Congress more than the JD-S, as it may not be able to retain many of the seats in the absence of strong candidates who can take on the defectors and the ruling party’s enviable poll machinery,” asserted the analyst.

Unhappy with the floundering 14-month-old JD-S-Congress coalition government and giving up hopes of becoming ministers or sharing the spoils, the defectors resigned from their Assembly seats in mid-July and stayed away from the House on the crucial day when former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy lost the trust-vote on July 23 and resigned on the same night.

“A fractured verdict in the May 2018 Assembly elections forced us to tie-up with the JD-S and form the coalition government solely to keep the BJP out of power, as it fell short of 8-9 seats in the 225-member house for simple majority, with 113 as the halfway mark. The resignations of the 17 former lawmakers enabled the BJP to wrest power from us with only 105 legislators,” Congress leader V.S. Ugrappa lamented.

The Congress had won 80 and the JD-S 37 in the Assembly polls last year, with the remaining one each by an independent, a regional outfit (KPJP) and one nominated.

The humiliating defeat of the former coalition allies in the recent Lok Sabha elections in which they retained only one seat each while the BJP won a record 25 of the 28 parliamentary constituencies emboldened the former Congress and JD-S rebels to quit their Assembly seats and caused the fall of the coalition government, as they did not find prospects of becoming ministers or getting adequate funds for the development of their Assembly constituencies.

“The disastrous Lok Sabha results have proved that the pre-poll alliance between the former ruling allies and fielding of joint candidates to avoid division of votes backfired and benefitted the BJP instead,” admitted Ugrappa.

With the BJP going all out to win 8-10 of the 15 seats to have a simple majority by fielding 13 defectors in the fray, the Congress worked overtime in selecting 8 candidates on October 31, 6 on November 16 and one (P. Nagaraj) on Sunday night for the Yeshwanthapura Assembly segment.

“As the apex court upheld the disqualification of the defectors for defying the party whip and betraying the electorate for voting them in the May 2018 assembly elections, we are asking the voters to punish them for disrespecting their mandate,” asserted Ugrappa.

The Congress candidates are G.B. Mangasuli (Athani), B.A. Kage (Kagwad), Lakhan Jarkiholi (Gokak), Venkatrao Ghorpade (Vijayanagara), Rizwan Arshad (Shivajinagara) and K.B. Chandrashekar (K.R. Pet)., Bhimmanna Naik (Yellapur), B.H. Bannikod (Hirekerur), K.B. Koliwad (Rannebennur), M. Anjanappa (Chikkaballapur), M. Narayanswamy (K.R. Pura), M. Shivaraj (Mahalakshmi Layout), Padmavathi Suresh (Hoskote) and H.P. Manjunath (Hunsur).

Of the 15 seats, 7 are in the state’s northwest and central regions, 5 in Bengaluru, 2 in old Mysuru region and one in Chikkaballapur.

The party has also fielded one woman — Padamavathy from Hoskote against three-time legislator and former minister M.T.B. Nagaraj of the BJP, the richest candidate in the state, with a whopping Rs 1,223 crore worth assets declared in his nomination affidavit.

Besides Nagaraj, the Congress also faces strong BJP contenders such as T. Sudhakar (Chikkaballapur), Ramesh Jorkiholi (Gokak), Anand Singh (Vijayanagara), Shivaram Hebbar (Yellapur) and B.C. Patil (Hirekeruru).

The 14 disqualified rebels expelled from the Congress are: Mahesh Kumatahalli, Srimanth B. Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Pratap Gouda Patil, Shivaram Hebbar, B.C. Patil, R. Shankar, Anand Singh, K. Sudhakar, B.A. Basavaraj, S.T. Somashekar, Munirathna, R. Roshan Baig and M.T.B. Nagaraj.

The 3 disqualified rebels expelled from the JD-S are A.H. Vishwanath, K.C. Naryana Gowda and K. Gopalaiah.

The bye-elections will be held in Athani, Kagwad, Gokak, Yellapura, Hirekerur, Ranibennur, Vijaynagara, Chickballapura, K.R. Pura, Yeshwanthpura, Mahalakshmi Layout, Shivajinagara, Hosakote, K.R. Pete and Hunsur.

By-polls inAMuski (Raichur district) and R.R. Nagar (Bengaluru southwest) have been withheld due to litigation in the Karnataka High Court over their results in the May 2018 assembly elections.

The vote count is on December 9.

After the by-polls, in the 223-member assembly, the BJP will require the halfway mark of 112 for a simple majority, which is 7 more than 105 it has, including speaker to survive the trial of strength.Eom/930 words.

(Fakir Balaji can be contacted at [email protected])

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