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Facebook fights fake news ahead of Africa elections

14 Feb 2019
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With Africa’s elections edging ever closer, Facebook  Africa's elections managers will be doing their best to stamp out the misinformation and inaccuracy spread by fake news.

Facebook’s Africa Elections public policy manager Akua Gyekye released a statement this week saying that his team has dedicated ‘unprecedented’ resources to reduce the spread of misinformation across Africa and the world.

There are a number of different ways the team is approaching the fight. They include the employment of local third-party fact checkers, improving digital literacy and education amongst citizens, promoting civic engagement, improved ad transparency, partnerships with NGOs, and much more.

Third-party fact checkers will verify news shared on Facebook and WhatsApp

Africa Check, AFP, Pesa Check, and Dubawa are just a few of the fact-checking organisations across South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, and Senegal who will help to assess news articles on Facebook.

“When they determine content is false, we reduce its distribution in News Feed so fewer people see it,” says Gyekye. 

“We also show related articles from fact-checkers for more context and notify users if a story they have shared is rated as false.”

WhatsApp is also working with CrossCheck Nigeria and Africa Check to allow Nigerians to send tips about potential rumours they have seen through the social media platform.

Gyekye says these strategies are part of a broader strategy 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”.

Improved digital literacy and education for citizens

Across Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya and Zimbabwe, print media and radio are sharing educational tips to help raise awareness about how to spot fake news.

WhatsApp is working in Nigeria to promote its ‘Share Facts, Not Rumours’ campaign and Facebook is working with Nigerian secondary schools on an online safety programme.

Partnerships with NGOs 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,” says Gyekye. 

“These local partners have been instrumental in giving us feedback that we’ve incorporated into our policies and programs, including the aforementioned trainings with teens and journalists.”

Journalists wise up

The Facebook team is working with journalists and media groups to share best practices on sharing content, online safety, and Community Standards.

Political parties get lessons on security

Facebook has worked with parties, campaigns and candidates on how to strengthen security, including how to avoid common online threats and how to turn on two-factor authentication.

Political ads are more transparent

“Earlier this month we began temporarily expanding enforcement and not accepting foreign election ads on Facebook in Nigeria to help prevent foreign interference,” says Gyekye.

“Already today you can see any ad that a Page is running on Facebook, regardless if it’s shown to you.”

Facebook is actively removing impersonation accounts

“We’ve always had policies against impersonation. Thanks to recent advancements in our detection technology, we’ve become much more effective at identifying these accounts.”