Facebook has had to face a ton of criticism for the way its platform has been co-opted by politicians and their campaign teams in attempts to influence voter behavior.
And Facebook has tried to address some of these issues, for instance by funding professional fact checkers in collaboration with media partners, and by technical means such as limiting the number of times a message can be forwarded on Facebook’s messaging app WhatsApp.
Another way the social network is trying to contribute to information dissemination in a positive way is its “Candidate Info” feature, rolled out in Indonesia ahead of the country’s April 17 general election. Indonesian citizen will at the same time also elect delegates of the consultative assembly.
The spotlight of most media coverage has been on the two presidential candidates and their running mates, which meant the people who are running for the consultative assembly were mostly left in the shadows.
What Facebook’s new feature is trying to do is to provide an easy access point for users to compare candidates of executive, legislative, and judicial bodies in the government so that they can make a well-informed decision.
According to an official press statement, the feature appears on the newsfeed section and can be accessed in Indonesia since Tuesday. Users can find the profile of candidates, visit their Facebook pages and watch their videos. The prospective delegates can introduce themselves through four featured videos, each with a duration of 20 seconds.
Indonesia ties with Brazil as the countries with the third highest number of Facebook users in the world. It had approximately 130 million users in January 2019. Because of their immense popularity in Indonesia, Facebook and WhatsApp are also the platforms used most to spread false news and hate speech, especially ahead of the election.
Indonesia, like the rest of the world, is currently facing the challenge of how to control misinformation on social networks. In March 2019 alone, the IT Ministry found 453 false news circulated online, half of them containing political messages. Facebook and WhatsApp representatives had made their way to Indonesia in January to meet with the IT ministry and discuss possible collaborations, with the new Candidate Info page as one of the outcomes.
Facebook has also introduced a policy to prevent foreign interference in the general election by banning election advertisements from outside Indonesia. On the election day, Facebook will launch a feature that allows users to share their voting experiences that will be displayed on the newsfeed section.
Editor: Nadine Freischlad