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Last Updated : Sep 16, 2020 10:09 AM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Former Facebook employee alleges 'politically-sophisticated network' worked to influence Delhi Assembly elections

Sophie Zhang, who was recently fired From Facebook, wrote a 6,600-word memo detailing how the platform ignored or was slow to act on evidence that fake accounts on its platform have been undermining elections and political affairs around the world.

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A data scientist, who worked at Facebook and was recently laid off, has claimed that she worked to remove a “politically sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence” the Delhi Assembly elections, held in February.

Sophie Zhang, who was recently fired From Facebook, wrote a 6,600-word memo, obtained and reported by Buzzfeed, detailing how the platform ignored or was slow to act on evidence that fake accounts on its platform have been undermining elections and political affairs around the world.

In countries including India, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, she found evidence of coordinated campaigns of varying sizes to boost or hinder political candidates or outcomes, said the report.

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Zhang, who spent three years at Facebook, said she found “multiple blatant attempts” by foreign national governments to abuse the platform on vast scales to “mislead their own citizenry”, and caused international news on multiple occasions.

Giving examples from across the world, the data scientist uncovered issues in India, alleging that a “politically-sophisticated network” was working to influence the Delhi Assembly polls.

“I worked through sickness to take down a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence the election,” she wrote in her memo.

The memo further said that Facebook never publicly disclosed this network or that it had taken it down, as per the report.

In August, Facebook’s Indian operation came under scrutiny after reports in the Wall Street Journal revealed a top policy executive in the country had stopped local staffers from applying the company’s hate speech policies to ruling party politicians who posted anti-Muslim hate speech, said the report.

Reacting on the revelation by Zhang, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), who won the assembly polls and retained power in Delhi, said that Facebook “is actively being used as a means of spreading misinformation to sway public opinions, especially at the time of national/regional elections”, according to a report by The Indian Express.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who also contested the polls against the AAP, said that its party leader had recently stated that Facebook is “biased” against it and was “probing their roles”.
First Published on Sep 16, 2020 10:09 am
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