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Facebook establishing task force for 2019 Lok Sabha elections




New Delhi, Oct 6: Facing the uphill task of tackling election-related interference on its platform as India gets ready for polls next year, Facebook on Saturday said it is establishing a task force comprising “hundreds of people” in the country to prevent bad actors from abusing its platform.

“With the 2019 elections coming, we are pulling together a group of specialists to work together with political parties,” Richard Allan, Facebook’s Vice President for Global Policy Solutions, told the media here.

Facebook has also set a goal of bringing a transparency feature for political ads — now available in the US and Brazil — to India by March next year, Allan informed.

With the new ad architecture in place, people would be able to see who paid for a particular political ad.

In May this year, Facebook announced that all election-related ads on Facebook and Instagram in the US must be clearly labelled — including a “Paid for by” disclosure from the advertiser at the top of the ad.

When users click on the label, they would be taken to an archive with more information such as the campaign budget associated with an individual ad and how many people saw it – including their age, location and gender, Facebook had said.

The social media giant later introduced the transparency feature in Brazil.

The introduction of the same feature in India would help users identify political propaganda easily.

“The task force for India will have security specialists and content specialists, among others, who will try to understand all the possible forms of election-related abuse in India,” added Allan during a workshop on Facebook’s “community standards” in the capital.

Allan explained that while the disinformation linked to real-world violence is checked by the team mandated to maintain Facebook’s community standards, other forms of disinformation are handled by a different team of fact checkers.

“The challenge for the task force in India would be to distinguish between real political news and political propaganda,” Allan noted, adding that the team would be very much based in the country and would consist of both existing human resources working on these issues within the company and new recruits.

Facebook came under intense scrutiny of policy makers in the US after allegations of Russia-linked accounts using the social networking platform to spread divisive messages during the 2016 presidential election surfaced.

Since then, it has stepped up efforts to check abuse of its platform by bringing in more transparency in the conduct of its businesses, including in advertisement policies.

Echoing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s earlier comments on elections across the world, Allan said the social media platform “wants to help countries around the world, including India, to conduct free and fair elections”.

In April, Zuckerberg said Facebook will ensure that its platform is not misused to influence elections in India and elsewhere.

“Our goals are to understand Facebook’s impact on upcoming elections — like Brazil, India, Mexico and the US midterms — and to inform our future product and policy decisions,” he told US lawmakers during a hearing.

Facebook uses a combination of technology, including Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and reports from its community to identify violating content on the platform.

The reports are reviewed by members of its “Community Operations” team who review content in over 50 languages in the world, including 12 from India.

“By the end of 2018, we will have 20,000 people working on these issues, double the number we had at the same time last year,” he said.

“We are also working to enhance the work we do to proactively detect violating content,” Allan said.

Speaking at the 16th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here later in the day, Allan said Facebook was cooperating fully with the investigating agency (Central Bureau of Investigation) in India with regard to the Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal.

The British political consultancy firm was in the midst of a huge controversy for allegedly inappropriately harvesting data from about 87 million Facebook accounts.

Without giving details of the impact that the Cambridge Analytica scandal had on India, he said that the impact was probably limited and that most users in India need not worry that their data was stolen.

“Yes, we have a responsibility to keep data safe. We employ some of the best security engineers in the world. When we notice a breach, we let people know immediately,” Allan said at the summit.

“We are investing more and more in countries outside the US so that they can tell us how our services should be designed,” he said, adding that India was an important market for Facebook and that it was strengthening the team in India to understand the local forms of hate speech.



Bihar Poll: Will Fill 10 Lakh Vacancies Soon After Returning To Power: Tejashwi Yadav

“Neighbouring Jharkhand has a domicile law; Madhya Pradesh has 100 per cent domicile law, and so do others. Why has he not implemented this law in Bihar? Does he have any explanation?”




Tejashwi Yadav

Patna: Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav on Sunday promised that if his party returned to power after the Bihar Assembly elections, over 10 lakh government vacancies in different departments would be filled within two months.

He also accused the Nitish Kumar government of neglecting the youths of Bihar.

“As a result, job scarcity is at its highest in state. He is unable to fill 4.5 lakh vacancies in different departments. Besides, vacant posts of supporting staffs are even more,” the Leader of the Opposition in Bihar Assembly told the media here.

“If we calculate, over 10 lakh posts are lying vacant in various departments. Besides, opportunities to create jobs in industries and unorganised sectors are also possible,” Tejashwi said.

“As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), one doctor is required for every 1,000 people. Accordingly, 1.25 lakh doctors are required for 12 crore people of the state. Besides, around 2 lakh support staff like nurses, lab technicians and Group D employees are needed. As many as 50,000 posts of teachers and 75,000 Junior Engineers will be filled. In Bihar police, over 50,000 posts are vacant,” he added.

He also claimed that law and order in Bihar was at its worse. “When the RJD was part of the state government for 15 months, I was the Deputy CM… the crime graph had gone down during that period.”

Playing the regional card, Tejashwi said that he had earlier advocated the implementation of the domicile law in Bihar but the Chief Minister did not agree.

“Neighbouring Jharkhand has a domicile law; Madhya Pradesh has 100 per cent domicile law, and so do others. Why has he not implemented this law in Bihar? Does he have any explanation?”

The RJD leader also took a dig at Nitish Kumar’s claims on ‘sushasan’ (good governance), asking if he was denying that 60 scams had taken place during his rule. “Srijan scam, paddy scam, Saat Nischay scam etc took place… I want to ask Nitishji about the recovery of money from offenders. How much money did he manage to recover from scamsters? Does he have the guts to reveal the amount in public domain?” Tejashwi said.

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Congress names two candidates for Uttar Pradesh Assembly bypolls

The dates for the by-elections to the eight assembly seats have not yet been announced but it is believed that they would be held around the same time as the Bihar Assembly elections.



Priyanka at Rajghat

Lucknow, Sep 27 : The Congress has announced candidates for two of the total eight Uttar Pradesh Assembly seats where by-elections are due.

The party has named Aarti Vajpayee as its candidate from the Bangarmau assembly seat. The seat fell vacant following the disqualification of sitting BJP member Kuldeep Sengar who was convicted in a rape case last year.

The Congress has named Haider Ali Khan on the Suar assembly seat in Rampur district. This seat fell vacant following the disqualification of Samajwadi Party’s sitting member Abdullah Azam who had allegedly forged his birth documents.

The Congress is the first party to announce candidates on two assembly seats.

The dates for the by-elections to the eight assembly seats have not yet been announced but it is believed that they would be held around the same time as the Bihar Assembly elections.

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Congress’s new Telangana in-charge Manickam Tagore stresses on unity, discipline ahead of polls

In 2018, Ramalinga Reddy had won the seat with a margin of 62,500 votes. Congress party’s M. Nageshwar Reddy had finished second.



Manickam Tagore

Hyderabad, Sep 27 : The Congress party’s new incharge for Telangana, Manickam Tagore on Sunday urged the party leaders in the state to work together for victory in the ensuing by-elections to Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council.

On his first visit to Hyderabad after being appointed as All India Congress Committee (AICC) incharge for Telangana, he held a series of meetings with party leaders on Sunday to review the preparedness for by-elections to one seat each of Assembly and Council.

Tagore also reviewed the party’s preparations for the coming elections to Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and also other urban local bodies in Warangal and Khammam.

He stressed the need for unity and discipline among the party cadre to win the coming electoral battles. He asked the party leaders to prepare a plan for massive campaigning in Dubbaka Assembly constituency, where by-elections are likely to be held next month.

Tagore suggested that an incharge be appointed for every two villages to ensure that all villages are covered during the campaign

Manickam, who arrived here on Saturday to grand welcome by the party leaders, also held a meeting with core committee members including state Congress chief N. Uttam Kumar Reddy, working presidents A. Revanth Reddy, Ponnam Prabhakar and AICC secretaries Bose Raju and Sreenivasan.

The central leader wanted the state unit to actively participate in the protest against the new farm legislation. He also called for exposing ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which supported all controversial moves of Modi government in the past and has now distanced itself from farm Bills.

The by-election to Dubbaka has been necessitated by the sudden death of TRS incumbent Solipeta Ramalinga Reddy. The ruling party is likely to field his widow Sujatha.

In 2018, Ramalinga Reddy had won the seat with a margin of 62,500 votes. Congress party’s M. Nageshwar Reddy had finished second.

This time, TRS president and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has directed his party cadre to ensure the party’s victory by a margin of one lakh votes. TRS has already launched the campaign with finance minister T. Harish Rao reaching out to voters with extensive tours to villages.

The by-election to the MLC seat from Nizamabad Local Authorities is scheduled on October 9. The by-poll has been necessitated by disqualification of R. Bhupathi Reddy after he defected to Congress from TRS ahead of 2018 Assembly elections.

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