Facebook and WhatsApp play major role in elections across Africa

face eleWith a number of upcoming elections across Africa, Akua Gyekye, public policy manager, Africa Elections, has shared an update to reduce the spread of misinformation, protect election integrity and support civic engagement across the continent

“We’ve dedicated unprecedented resources to these efforts globally — and our work across Africa is focused in eight major areas,” Gyekye added.

Fighting false news

They have teamed up with local third-party fact-checkers across South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon and Senegal — including Africa Check, Agence France-Presse (AFP), Kenya’s Pesa Check and Nigeria’s Dubawa.

“These independent groups help 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,” Gyekye said.

“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,” Gyekye noted.

Boosting digital literacy

“We’ve 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

“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.”

Apart from these, other crucial areas include:

· Making political ads more transparent

· Journalist trainings

· Proactive removal of impersonation accounts

· Partnerships with NGOs and civil society

· Connecting with political parties about security

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