How facebook's data scandal can harm the integrity of elections in Pakistan

(Bilal khan, Islamabad)

Mark zuckerberg answering about the data scandal

"This is going to be a big year for elections ahead with the US midterms and elections in India, Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, Hungary and others. This is going to be a major focus for us. We now have about 15,000 people working on security and content review and we'll have more than 20,000 by the end of this year," Statement by Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook.

Why has this statement been issued in the first place? Recently Mark Zuckerberg was summoned by Congress of USA to answer before the senators as US Presidential Elections in 2016 were influenced by a UK based political research company named Cambridge Analytica which used Facebook’s 87 million users date to influence the elections. Donald Trump the current President of USA used this firm to win the elections. Facebook claimed the data to be leaked and not sold on purpose as it violates their terms of usage. However, in response to the question of what Facebook did when it found out about the data leak? Mr Zuckerberg told the senators that it demanded Cambridge Analytica to delete the data and they claimed that they did delete it. However, Facebook did not cross-check and neither informed the 87 million users whose data was leaked.

The next question is how can this data be used to win elections? Well, let's look back at what data access does Facebook have. Our basic contact details including our emails, phone numbers, location etc. Also, they have data of our normal unencrypted messenger chats, our likes and interests based on what we share, comment and follow on Facebook. If you are a full-time user your complete identity profile nearly accurate to your original personality exists on Facebook. Now Facebook’s business model works on Adds. They use this data to show us adds of our interest without sharing this information with the add company. This is a safe business model. When this data leaked to a third party they used it to manipulate minds of the voters and used it for two purposes for winning the elections. Firstly, they ran a targeted campaign to reach those people who share the same interests as that of Trump so they can be further manipulated to support Trump’s cause in the elections. They constantly fed their minds with information that increased their interest in Trump and his campaign. This favoured his win. The second thing they did was a targeted negative campaign of the opposite party so people who supported the opposite group can be turned against their own party which ultimately helped Trump even more to win the elections. This is a proposed mechanism of how Cambridge Analytica helped Trump run a successful campaign.

Now apply all of this to Pakistan and you can easily see that according to the social media trends we as a nation can be manipulated by false news, fake accounts and a targeted inception of our minds by one party against another by generating a propaganda. Even today in Pakistan social media trends go viral in hours. People have a strong belief on what they see on social media because news whether fake or real reaches the social media without any filtration unlike TV channels which show only what can be shown to the people. There remain no strong regulations to stop propagation of fake news on Facebook except Facebook’s personal team does something you will see such posts spreading like a virus through millions of user’s personal accounts and Facebook pages with thousands of followers. "We have more work to do here and we're going to continue working very hard to defend against them. There's the Mexican presidential election, there are big elections in India and Brazil as well as in Pakistan and Hungary and a number of other countries and the US midterms, of course," Zuckerberg said.

In view of this scenario, Mark Zuckerberg said that his company's major focus is to protect the integrity of the upcoming elections in numerous countries focusing majorly on India, Pakistan, and the United States. What he has done is that he plans to hire more workers to stop anyone from influencing the elections. Moreover, using the technology of Artificial Intelligence and advanced tools they plan to strictly regulate Facebook and stop propagation of fake news and negative propaganda that could manipulate people in any way.

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24 Apr, 2018 Views: 900

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