By Juliet Umeh
As countries in Africa prepare to hold elections soon, Social Media Platform, Facebook, has revealed some of the measures it is taking to ensure fairness and integrity of the elections as part of it’s contributions in the region.
According to the platform’s Public Policy Manager, Africa Elections, Akua Gyekye, the measures provide an overview of it’s ongoing work in reducing misinformation and removing voter suppression, preventing election interference, supporting civic engagement and increasing transparency in political advertising.
The steps includes:
Combating misinformation and false news
Gyekye said: “We are working hard to fight the spread of misinformation on our services because we know that people want to see accurate information on Facebook and Instagram – and so do we. “Our updated policies allow us to remove misinformation which could lead to imminent violence or physical harm, and also remove misinformation which could prevent people from voting, such as false news related to the dates, location, time, and voting methods.
“Over the past year we have expanded our work with independent fact-checking organisations across Africa to review and rate the accuracy of content shared on Facebook and Instagram. We work with organisations such as Dubawa, Africa Check, Pesa Check, AFP, Congo Check and France 24 – all of which are certified by the International Fact Checking Network.
“The program now covers 18 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and also supports local languages such as Swahili, Wolof, Igbo, Yoruba, Zulu and Setswana,” Gyekye explained.
Boosting digital literacy and helping people spot false news
Facebook said itl wants to make sure people can spot false news and know how to alert us about it.
It said, “That’s why we continue to run campaigns focused on providing educational tips on how to spot false news like ‘Three Questions To Help Stamp Out False News’.
“These campaigns are supported in local languages and run across both local radio and on Facebook. We are also continuing to run education ads focused on hate speech, how it’s defined and actions users can take,” it said.
Making political ads more transparent
Facebook said: “We believe political discussion and debate should be transparent to every voter, which is why over the past few years, we have introduced tools that provide more information about political ads on Facebook and Instagram.
“Since launching our political ads transparency tool in 2019, we have expanded this to cover a number of countries across Sub-Saharan Africa.
“We encourage anybody who wants to run ads about elections or politics to go through a verification process to prove who they are and that they live in the country they are targeting, and in a growing number of countries across Sub-Saharan Africa we have made this process mandatory.
“We run additional checks to ensure compliance with our policies, and every political ad is labelled with a “paid by” disclaimer so you can see who paid for them. We also store all political ads in our Ads Library so that everyone can see what ads are running, who saw the ads and how much was spent.
“These changes mean that political advertising on Facebook and Instagram is now more transparent than other forms of election campaigning such as billboards, newspaper ads, direct mail, leaflets or targeted emails,” Facebook said.
Promoting civic engagement
Gyekye also explained that Facebook is helping to build informed and civically engaged communities around elections.
He said: “For example, in countries like Ghana, Ivory Coast and Guinea we’ve engaged in conversations with civic stakeholders such as the Electoral Commissions and civil society organisations to focus on how Facebook can be a positive tool for civic engagement and the steps they can take to stay safe while using our platforms.
“We’ve also conducted virtual trainings on ads enforcement and civic engagement with political parties in these same countries. We continue to roll out a number of products and features across Facebook and Instagram, including Election Day reminders at the top of Facebook’s News Feed to encourage people to vote, and Security Megaphones to remind page admins of political groups to further secure their accounts using Two-Factor Authentication,” he said.
Keeping people safe
He noted that keeping people safe on Facebook and Instagram is always it’s top priority and this is especially important during elections.
He said: “Since 2016, we have tripled the size of the teams working on safety and security to more than 35,000 people.
We have hired more systems engineers, security experts and content reviewers, including native language speakers in Swahili, Amharic, Zulu, Somali, Oromo and Hausa, to name a few examples.
“We have also pioneered the use of artificial intelligence to find and remove harmful content more quickly. Between April and June of this year, we removed over 15 million pieces of graphic and violent content globally, detecting over 99 percent proactively, before anyone had to report it,” Gyekye said.
Our partnerships with NGOs and civil society
Facebook said: “Alongside our local experts on the continent, we continue to work on-the-ground with NGOs and civil society across many African countries to enable us to better understand challenges and how we can tackle them more effectively.
“This work continues to be instrumental, with local partners giving us feedback that we incorporate into our policies and programmes,” it added.