From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : nothing much
Mains level : India's interest needs to be protected from unwanted social media influence.
Social media platforms allow political parties to reach millions of prospective voters and are therefore an integral part of elections.
Misuse of Social Media
- However, some authoritarian regimes across the world have used social media to manufacture positive public opinion.
- Worse, some established democracies have had to deal with propaganda, fake news and foreign interference in domestic elections.
- These developments point to the capacity of social media platforms to seriously undermine democratic practices worldwide.
Steps after the Cambridge Analytica scandal
- Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the company illegally harvested the personal data of millions of Facebook users without their consent and used that to influence their voting preferences, Facebook has been in the forefront in creating various checks and balances in cyberspace to create an environment for free and fair elections.
- It has created specialised global centres with the sole aim of promoting election integrity.
Use of Artificial Intelligence –
- As a platform that sees billions of posts each day, Facebook has identified Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AIML)-powered pattern recognition tools to be the most effective line of defence against “unnatural interference”.
- Whenever accounts are found that are similar to ones flagged in the past, and that are inaccurate, abusive, or violating the platforms’ terms of service, they are systematically removed.
- At present, AIML tools assist the platform block or remove over a million accounts a day.
Case study of India
According to a recent survey, one in two Indian voters has received some kind of fake news in the month leading to the elections. AIML tools also work to minimise the spread of such disinformation.
- Some of the actions taken by these platforms, however, have not been that well received, especially by those who say that these platforms should not be deciding what is proper and improper in the Indian online space.
- For instance, Twitter’s top officials, including global CEO Jack Dorsey, were summoned to appear before the Parliamentary Panel on Information Technology for alleged bias against right-wing voices on the platform.
- With almost all the popular social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, being foreign-owned, and with India having neither insights into their internal algorithms and functioning nor any viable homegrown equivalents, its population will always be susceptible to interference beyond its control.
India’s ability to create its own mass collaborative technology and independent institutions with technical expertise that can monitor and counter actions of the government, is paramount in ensuring that social media evolves into an enabler of transparency and democracy, rather than a cause of democratic recession.