With a number of upcoming elections across Africa, Facebook has decided to share with the continent how they plan to tackle misinformation and fake news in Africa. You will be living under the rocks if you don’t know that in few days Nigerians will be exercising their civic duties by electing candidates into various political offices. I hope you are ready because I am.
Ok, now back to the Facebook story. We all know the negative impact of Fake News, and how these fake stories can cause havoc and start a revolution. Well, it seems that Facebook is taking giant steps in curbing the inflow of misinformation and outright fake news.
According to Akua Gyekye, Facebook Public Policy Manager, Africa Elections, “Facebook has dedicated unprecedented resources to these efforts globally — and our work across Africa is focused on eight key areas”. The core areas are:
Fighting False News
Facebook wants to stop the spread of false news on its platforms. That’s why they have 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 organization), AFP (Agence France-Presse – an international news agency), Pesa Check (a local Kenyan fact-checking organization) and Dubawa (a local Nigerian fact-checking organization). These independent groups help Facebook assess the accuracy of news shared on the platform, and when they determine content is false, Facebook reduces its distribution in News Feed so fewer people see it. Facebook 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 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: To increase digital literacy and reduce fake news, Facebook wants to make sure people can spot false news and know how to flag it. To make this happen, Facebook rolled out educational tips on national and regional radio and in print media across Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya and Zimbabwe. In Nigeria, WhatsApp launched its “Share Facts, Not Rumours” campaign to help increase awareness about hoaxes and misinformation. 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:
According to Facebook, helping to build informed and civically engaged communities are central to their work around elections. In Nigeria, the Silicon Valley heavyweight has rolled out new options in English & Hausa so people can report posts that contain incorrect election information, encourage violence or otherwise violate Facebook community standards. Also, on Election Day, Facebook will show a voting day reminder in English and Hausa at the top of Facebook’s News Feed.
Making Political Ads More Transparent:
Earlier this month Facebook began temporarily expanding enforcement and not accepting foreign election ads on Facebook in Nigeria to help prevent foreign interference. Already today you can see an ad that a page is running on Facebook, regardless if it’s shown to you.
Facebook continues to educate media groups and journalists across the country on best practices for sharing content on our platforms and online safety. We also provide training on our Community Standards, which govern what is and is not allowed on our platform.
Proactive Removal Of Impersonation Account:
Facebook has always had policies against impersonation. Thanks to recent advancements in its detection technology, the platform has become much more effective at identifying these accounts.
Partnership With NGO’s And Civil Society:
In order to better understand local issues and how we can tackle them more effectively, we work with a number of NGO and civil society partners across many African countries. These local partners have been instrumental in giving us feedback that we’ve incorporated into our policies and programs, including the aforementioned training with teens and journalists.
Connecting with Political Parties About Security:
We’ve 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, we’ve trained vice presidential candidates, senatorial candidates and top advisors from over 35 major political parties — and the information included in these training is all available for anyone to access at politics.FB.com.
To further reassure the public, Akua Gyekye said, “We want Facebook and WhatsApp to be places where people feel safe, can access accurate information and make their voices heard. We are making significant investments, both in products and in people, and continue to improve in each of these areas”.
I think it is safe to say that with the combined effort of regulators and the public, we can rid our self of “Fake News”. Well done Facebook.