Facebook highlights efforts to protect election integrity in Africa

With a number of upcoming elections across Africa, Facebook has restated its commitment to reducing the spread of misinformation, protect election integrity and support civic engagement across the continent, including Nigeria.

The social media giant has in recent times dedicated unprecedented resources to these efforts globally, especially in Africa, where its efforts have been focused in eight key areas, namely fighting false news, boosting digital literacy to help people spot false news, promoting civic engagement, making political advertisements more transparent, proactive removal of impersonation accounts, and connecting with political parties about security.

It has also undertaken the training of journalists on practices for sharing contents on its platforms, while partnering with NGOs and civil society groups on the continent.

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Mr Akua Gyekye, Facebook’s Public Policy Manager, Africa Elections said: “We want to stop the spread of false news on our platforms. “That’s why we’ve teamed up with local third-party fact-checkers across South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon and Senegal, including Africa Check, AFP (Agence France-Presse), Pesa Check (a local Kenyan fact-checking organisation) and Dubawa (a local Nigerian fact-checking organisation).

“These independent groups help us assess the accuracy of news shared on Facebook and when they determine content is false, we reduce its distribution in News Feed, so fewer people see it. We also show related articles from fact-checkers for more context and notify users if a story they have shared is rated as false.”

Additionally, in Nigeria, WhatsApp has worked with Africa Check and CrossCheck Nigeria to let users send questions about potential rumours they have received through the platform.

These fact-checking expansions, he said, 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.

Facebook, according to Gyekye, has also intensified efforts to help people spot false news on their own and to flag it, rolling out educational tips on national and regional radio and in print media across Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

In Nigeria, WhatsApp, Gyekye said 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.

According to Facebook, it is also promoting civic engagement around the elections.

“Helping to build informed and civically engaged communities is central to our work around elections. In Nigeria, we’ve rolled out new options in English & Hausa so people can report posts that contain incorrect election information, encourage violence or otherwise violate our Community Standards. On Election Day, we’ll show a voting day reminder in English and Hausa at the top of Facebook’s News Feed,” Gyekye said.