Facebook to establish office in Ulaanbaatar to combat fake news during election

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On January 15, the General Election Commission of Mongolia (GEC), in collaboration with other relevant authorities, held a press conference to brief the public on the current progress of preparation for the 2020 parliamentary elections. Head of the Communications Regulatory Commission G.Chinzorig said Facebook will establish an office in Ulaanbaatar to combat false and misleading information during the election. 

A similar office was established in Singapore on January 1, 2020 in preparation for the country’s presidential and legislative elections on January 11, 2020. Facebook’s Ireland office will monitor Ulaanbaatar’s Facebook office round the clock on election day. G.Chinzorig stated the number of active users on Facebook grew to 2.2 million last year, which is 70 percent of the country’s population. However, 40 percent of these accounts is classified as fake accounts. 

Laws and regulations concerning social media was explained upon by A.Luvsan-Ochir, the head of Information Technology Development and Management Division at the Communications Regulatory Commission. He said all candidates must register all of their social media presence with the commission, and will be liable for civil penalties if they spread misinformation through their accounts. They will also have the right to submit a request to remove false or misleading information, which will be decided by the relevant authorities. The Communications Regulatory Commission is planning to cooperate with Facebook, and the company’s representatives will be arriving in the country in March, 2020. 

Director of GEC Ch.Sodnomtseren explained certain details of the recently approved Election Law. There are three elections (local, presidential and parliamentary) that were managed by one law are now separated into three different laws, and numerous vague and controversial clauses have been fixed. 

“We have currently proposed to vote on June 24, 2020, but it is not finalized by Parliament yet. Campaigns of candidates and political parties will continue for 21 days. The GEC will not be involved in assigning constituencies. While we halt official transfer of residencies 14 days before the election, we will be stopping transfers on February 1, and residents will only be eligible for transfers one day after the election day,” Ch.Sodnomtseren says. 

He says this change had to be made as there were numerous controversies, accusations and smear campaigns laid against politicians for bringing in “their” people to their own constituencies to vote for them. Ch.Sodnomtseren also said there are over 20,000 officials from the General Intelligence Agency, General Police Department and other agencies directly involved with the organization of the election, and they will be allowed to transfer their residence as they will be dispersed to around 2,000 locations around the country.

He also elaborated on how “buying votes” is fully banned and enforceable in this Election Law, having the act tightly worded and explicitly stated in the relevant clause. Specifically, it now says “any individual or entity who has organized a sports competition, feast, celebration, musical or artistic festival, competition with monetary or valuable prize, or games of chance to attract voters” will be fined 20,000 MNT for individuals and 200,000 MNT for companies. But this does not mean this can be repeatedly done, and if one was subjected to this fine several times, his or her eligibility to run for the election will be annulled by the GEC.

Byambadorj Badrakh

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