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Facebook Moves to Protect Indonesia’s Elections From Foreign Influence

The Making Of Electronic ID Long Que In IndonesiaThe Making Of Electronic ID Long Que In Indonesia
Hundreds of Indonesians are stuck in long lines to apparently inquire about Electronic Indonesia ID online system in South Tangerang, Indonesia last month. The country will have key presidential, national and regional elections next month.NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook said it is temporarily banning foreign-purchased political ads in Indonesia with the goal of “safeguarding election integrity” on the platform ahead of the country’s vote for president in April.

Advertisers based outside Indonesia will not be allowed to purchase any Facebook ad that “references politicians or political parties or attempts to encourage or suppress voting,” said the company. The ban went into effect Monday and will be moderated by both human and automated review.

Facebook has been scrambling to recover user trust after being lambasted for becoming a platform for disinformation campaigns targeting U.S. voters since at least 2016. In the past few years, the social media platform has removed hundreds of accounts, mostly based in Russia, for this “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

Facebook has also made the buyers behind ads more transparent and implemented rules specific to countries heading to the polls. Like in Indonesia, a ban on foreign-bought political ads was put in place ahead of Nigeria’s elections last month and ahead of Ukraine’s elections to take place later this month.

Indonesians will vote for president and national and regional legislatures on April 17, the Associated Press reports. Incumbent President Joko Widodo is up against former Gen. Prabowo Subianto, a nationalist Widodo defeated in 2014.

Ahead of the polls, Facebook is educating more than 30,000 Indonesians on digital literacy through its Think Before You Share school program in partnership with YCAB Foundation and Do Something Indonesia.

Local government officials in East Indonesia will also be trained on “key digital skills,” said Facebook.