A ‘politically sophisticated’ attempt to influence the Delhi election played on Facebook before it was taken quietly, a former employee said in a memo citing examples of how the company failed to act in a timely or transparent manner in its handling of efforts to undermine democratic processes around the world.
The memo, written by data scientist Sophie Zhang, who worked at Facebook and was recently fired, was taken from Buzzfeed News, which reported on it late Monday.
The memorandum cited examples of political party claims to influence elections in Azerbaijan and Honduras, and similar but unattributed campaigns in Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador, except India.
“I worked during the illness to remove a politically sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence the election,” Zhang wrote about the 2020 Delhi election in a 6,600-word memo, according to the report.
The dismissal was not officially reported by Facebook and the employee did not specify who was behind the attempt.
The Buzzfeed News report is the third since an Aug. 14 story from the Wall Street Journal that first detailed how Facebook struggles to manage content on its website, particularly those involving politicians. Members of Facebook India’s policy team personally intervened to stop actions against a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader in Telangana, citing a potential risk to the company’s commercial interests in the country, the first report said.
Facebook, which has been attacked by both the opposition Congress and the ruling BJP, has since banned the politician and denied that he acted in a one-sided manner.
The company is being investigated by a parliamentary panel and a legislative assembly committee in Delhi.
Raghav Chadha, chairman of the committee for peace and harmony, said the latest revelations were worrying and if such practices are not curbed in time, they could affect the country’s democracy.
Read also: Facebook contemptuously warns the Delhi Assembly panel
Prior to his dismissal, Zhang was with the Facebook Page Integrity team in charge of combating fake news, the Buzzfeed report said.
It was not clear why she was fired, but the report noted that she had refused a $ 64,000 severance payment in order to avoid a non-depreciation agreement.
“In the three years I have spent on Facebook, I have found numerous clear attempts by foreign governments to abuse our large-scale platform to defraud their citizenship and cause international news on many occasions,” she wrote in the memo.
The revelation raises questions of transparency about how the social media company acts on problematic content, which includes hate speech and false information that has been proven to succeed in influencing elections.
He also highlights the problem of who makes these calls, which in Zhang’s case appear to have been a middle-level employee.
A Facebook spokesman said the company deals with every issue entirely. “Working against uncoordinated coordinated behavior is our priority, but we are also addressing the problems of annoying mail and fake engagement. “We investigate every issue carefully, including those raised by Ms. Zhang, before taking action or going out and making claims publicly as a company,” he added.
Zhang could not be reached for comment.
Experts say the latest memorandum highlights a recurring problem with social media websites in general and Facebook in particular.
“Facebook normally comes out with a transparency report. It is important to ask why there was no removal discovery, but more importantly, ask Facebook what it considers to be non-authentic activity. The former employee expresses how she was overwhelmed by the biggest political consequences of her decision. “When moderating a company’s content begins to impact the world outside of its users, it becomes a democratic task to intervene and determine how these decisions are made,” said Jyoti Panday, a researcher at the Internet Governance Project, Georgia Institute of Technology. .
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