Lok Sabha Polls 2019: Google tool will check spread of fake news and who pays for advertisements, says Sunita Mohanty

India Lok Sabha Polls 2019: Google India Director Sunita Mohanty says “We will deploy tools to check the spread of fake news on Lok Sabha elections that will happen in 2019, who pays for poll advertisements.” Photo: Linkedin Profile.

Sunitha Mohanty, Google India Director – Trust and Safety told the Indian Express daily that the online search engine major is ready with a global framework and has plans up its sleeves to create tools to identify the spread of fake news connected to elections.

As the Lok Sabha election (2019) is round the corner, Google is contemplating on implementing the strategic tools adopted during the mid-term polls in the US, where the search engine major experimented and established “tight control” on who is spending money on political advertisements, besides the guidelines requiring all such advertisements to include a disclosure identifying who paid for it.

Gearing up for India General Elections 2019

A weekly transparency report that listed political advertisement spends on the basis of advertisers and their party affiliations was also launched during the US mid-terms. “We are planning something. What we did with the recent US elections is that we built a very tight control on who is spending on election advertisement and how are we controlling information on elections. We launched a transparency report on the kind of political advertisements that were being run. We also did a product control on spread of misinformation and fake news around elections,” Mohanty said, when asked how Google was getting ready for the Indian Lok Sabha Elections 2019.

“In the US, during the mid-term elections, we ran weekly reports showing all the advertisements that ran on Google platform, who paid for them, which party did it cover. We plan that for India. There’s still time for India’s general elections, but we are gearing up for it and we have put in place a global framework for it,” she pointed out.

Transparency

For the US mid-term polls, Google published a transparency report, updated weekly, pertaining to political advertisements on its platform and laid down guidelines for such advertisements. As per the norms, advertisers must be verified by Google in order to run advertisements of political importance in the US on Google Ad Services.

The report included information about advertisements related to polls or issues that featured a federal candidate or office-holder. It also showed how much those verified advertisers were spending to run advertisements on Google Ads Services in the US. What is more, the advertisements that appear on Google’s search platform are based on identification of relevant keywords entered by a user, to which an advertisement is referenced. The report also listed the advertisers who spent more than $500 on advertisements of political importance in the current US federal election cycle May 31, 2018 on-wards. Google guidelines also require that all political advertisements include a disclosure identifying who paid for a particular advertisement, noted the report.

Non-Biased Approach

Sunita further clarified that while Google personalises advertisements that a user sees, based on search data of that individual for categories, such as apparel, travel, etc, the company’s systems do not use factors such as political leanings, sexual orientations or medical conditions to personalise advertisements. “We have introduced a concept — there is advertisement personalisation, Google uses your data to personalise advertisements — but you can go and remove categories for which you do not want advertisements. You can remove apparel, ticketing, tech, etc. As a user, I may be searching about a particular political party or its leaders, which may show I am affiliated to a particular party, but my political affiliation is never used for personalisation. Similarly, if I am searching about treatments for HIV or cancer, even those are not used to personalise advertisements. We have a principle that determines what is extremely individual and personal, and what we can (use for personalising advertisements). We sat down and worked out a policy principle — sexual orientation cannot be used for personalisation, but clothes or shoes is personalised. Personalised advertisements help people make better choices,” Sunita added.