Meta vows to crack down on election fake news, misinformation

 A Facebook illustration of fake news.

Photo credit: AFP

What you need to know:

  • The team has been working closely with Kenyan election authorities and partners.
  •  It has set up a dedicated Kenyan Elections Operation Centre to monitor the type of content that is posted on its platforms about the elections. 

Meta, formerly Facebook, has vowed to crack down on fake news and misinformation on its platforms to help Kenya deliver a safe and secure General Election next month. 

The company – which owns the leading social media and messaging platforms in the country including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger – says it has deployed a team of local experts to curate content posted on its platforms to reduce misinformation regarding the elections. 

It says the team has been working closely with Kenyan election authorities and partners, and has set up a dedicated Kenyan Elections Operation Centre to monitor the type of content that is posted on its platforms about the elections. 

Meta says it took down more than 37,000 hate utterances made on Facebook and Instagram in the six months to April alone and 42,000 posts that breached its violence and incitement policies. 

Problematic content

It said it is temporarily reducing the distribution of content across Facebook and Instagram from users who have repeatedly or severely violated its policies to reduce misinformation and lower the risk of problematic content in the country ahead of and during the elections. 

“Meta uses a combination of artificial intelligence, human review and user reports. (It is) quadrupling the size of its global team focused on safety and security to more than 40,000 people and hiring more content reviewers, including in Swahili,” said the company in a statement. 

The company said it has also rolled out and launched a range of policies and products aimed at increasing transparency in political advertising, fighting voter interference, promoting civic engagement and increasing digital literacy.  

As part of efforts to boost civic engagement, Meta says it will we’ll have an “I Voted” sticker on Instagram on August 9 and will remind people in the country vote through a notification on top of their Facebook Feed. 

Using lessons from the past, and input from a range of experts, including dedicated and local teams within Meta, we’ve made substantial investments to help take aggressive steps in fighting abuse across our platforms, whilst rolling out policies and products to help ensure a safe and secure General Election,” said Meta Director of Public Policy East and Horn of Africa Mercy Ndegwa. 

This comes at a time social media platforms – which boast millions of users in the country – have taken centre stage as the arena in which fake news and misinformation is propagated by political actors to woo voters and instill fear in their opponents. 

The dangers of the platforms being used to undermine Kenya’s democracy are real. 

An undercover investigation by Britain's Channel 4 News revealed in 2018 that British consultancy and data mining firm Cambridge Analytica embarked on an extensive spree of mining the data of Kenyans on social media which they used to stage smear campaigns against one of the two leading candidates in the 2013 and 2017 General Elections. 

Fake news and misinformation has also reared its ugly head in the campaigning for this year’s elections, threatening to span violence and hate amid the spirited use of hate speech, incitement, fake numbers and figures, exaggeration as well as manipulation of pictures, videos and voices of politicians. 

“As part of its elections work, Meta removes the most serious kinds of misinformation from Facebook and Instagram, such as content that is intended to suppress voting or could contribute to imminent violence or physical harm,” said Meta. 

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