Meta has announced that it’s putting up measures to counter the spread of misinformation on Facebook, ahead of Kenya’s August 9 general elections.
This includes removing content that could incite violence or cause physical harm. According to Meta, it’s working with their fact-checking partners in Kenya, who include -AFP, Africa Check and PesaCheck to review and rate potentially false content on their platforms, label it, and place it lower in their feed to limit the number of people seeing it.
Freedom of Speech
The company however maintained that it was not out to curtail freedom of speech.
“We are careful however, not to limit political speech since we have a fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that political speech is the most scrutinized speech there is,” Meta Public Policy Director for East Africa and Horn of Africa Mercy Ndegwa said.
Facebook is also decreasing the risk of what they term as “problematic content” from going viral in the country and potentially inciting violence or hatred ahead of or during the August 9 election by temporarily reducing the distribution of content from individuals who have been flagged for repeatedly or severely violating their policies so that fewer people see it.
In 2019 we reduced the number of people you can forward a message on WhatsApp to just five chats at once and introduced the ‘forwarded’ and ‘highly forwarded’ labels to highlight when something has been shared multiple times. We’ve since further reduced the number of people you can send a highly forwarded message to, to just one chat at once, which has resulted in a 70 per cent reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages on WhatsApp,” Ndegwa said.
Meta further stated that it’s working closely with elections authorities and trusted partners in countries facing elections to customize its strategies and take appropriate steps to stay ahead of emerging threats and make sure it is prepared long before people cast their votes.
“We know we have an important responsibility when it comes to helping people participate in elections and to ensure safe, secure, and free elections. Using lessons from the past and input from experts and policymakers across the political spectrum, we’ve made substantial investments in people and technology to reduce misinformation, remove harmful content on our platforms, fight voter interference and promote civic engagement during the elections,” Ndegwa said of its efforts around election integrity in Kenya.
The company has also formed a global cross-functional team dedicated to the Kenya elections. The team also includes individuals with global expertise in topics like misinformation, hate speech, elections and disinformation.
“These teams are working hard to prevent any abuse of our services before, during and after Kenya’s 2022 general election. Locally, we also have permanent staff who reside in Kenya and work in the public policy, public policy programmes, communications and product teams,” she added.