With a number of upcoming elections across Africa beginning with Nigeria this week, Facebook has shared an update on how it intends to reduce the spread of misinformation, protect election integrity and support civic engagement across the continent.
According to the tech giant, they’ve dedicated unprecedented resources to these efforts globally — and its work across Africa is focused on eight key areas.
Fighting False News
First, Facebook hopes to stop the spread of false news on its platforms(Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp). to achieve this it has teamed up with local third-party fact-checkers across South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon and Senegal — including Africa Check (Africa’s first independent fact-checking organisation), AFP (Agence France-Presse – an international news agency), Pesa Check (a local Kenyan fact-checking organisation) and Dubawa (a local Nigerian fact-checking organisation).
These independent groups will help in assessing the accuracy of news shared on Facebook, and when they determine content is false, the company will reduce its distribution in News Feed so fewer people see it. In addition, Facebook will show related articles from fact-checkers for more context and notify users if a story they have shared is rated as false. Most especially in Nigeria, WhatsApp has worked with Africa Check and CrossCheck Nigeria to let users send questions about potential rumors they have received through the platform. These fact-checking expansions are part of a broader strategy to fight fake news that includes extensive work to remove fake accounts; cut off incentives to the financially-motivated actors that spread misinformation; promote news literacy; and give more context so people can decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.
Boosting Digital Literacy and Helping People Spot False News
Second, Facebook wants to make sure people can spot false news and know how to flag it. To achieve this, it has rolled out educational tips on national and regional radio and in print media across Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya and Zimbabwe. In Nigeria, WhatsApp has launched its “Share Facts, Not Rumours” campaign to help increase awareness about hoaxes. Additionally, at the end of last year, Facebook began a new Online Safety Programme for students in Nigerian secondary schools. The 12-week workshop is designed to help teenagers understand the fundamentals of online safety and digital literacy, covering topics such as managing an online presence; social media and sharing; public Wi-Fi safety; building healthy relationships online; understanding password security and privacy settings; and identifying misinformation online.
Promoting Civic Engagement
Third, the company would help to build informed and civically engaged communities — as this is central to its work around elections. In Nigeria, Facebook has rolled out new options in English & Hausa so people can report posts that contain incorrect election information, encourage violence or otherwise violate the Facebook Community Standards. Additionally, on Election Day, it hopes to show a voting day reminder in English and Hausa at the top of Facebook’s News Feed.
Making Political Ads More Transparent
Fourth, earlier this month, the company began temporarily expanding enforcement and not accepting foreign election ads on Facebook in Nigeria to help prevent foreign interference. Already today you can see any ad that a Page is running on Facebook, regardless if it’s shown to you.
Fifth, Facebook hopes to continue to educate media groups and journalists across the country on best practices for sharing content on its platforms and online safety. It has also provided training on its Community Standards, which govern what is and is not allowed on its platform.
Proactive Removal of Impersonation Accounts
Sixth, Facebook always had policies against impersonation. Thanks to recent advancements in its detection technology, it has become much more effective at identifying these accounts.
Partnerships with NGOs and Civil Society
Seventh, in order to better understand local issues and how it can tackle them more effectively, Facebook works with a number of NGO and civil society partners across many African countries. These local partners have been instrumental in giving it feedback that it has incorporated into its policies and programs, including the aforementioned training with teens and journalists.
Connecting with Political Parties About Security
Eight, the company have trained parties, campaigns and candidates on security best practices, including how to turn on two-factor authentication and how to avoid common threats online. For the Nigerian elections, Facebook has trained vice presidential candidates, senatorial candidates and top advisors from over 35 major political parties — and the information included in these trainings is all available for anyone to access at politics.FB.com.
The company wants Facebook and WhatsApp to be places where people feel safe, can access accurate information and make their voices heard. Hence it is making significant investments, both in products and in people, and continue to improve in each of these areas.
Do you think these 8 factors would have any influence on Africa’s elections, beginning with Nigeria’s Presidential election this Saturday?
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