Meta has today outlined some of the work it’s been undertaking to promote election integrity for the Kenya elections on 9th August 2022.
The work it says is inspired by its experience so far in supporting over 200 elections globally, including key elections across Sub Saharan Africa. Meta’s dedicated teams have also been working closely with elections authorities and trusted partners in countries facing elections to customise 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.“ Meta Public Policy Director for East Africa and Horn of Africa Mercy Ndegwa said.
Some of our interventions with the Kenya elections include Creation of a cross-functional team spread across the world that is dedicated to the Kenya elections. This team Meta says includes Kenyans and people who have spent significant amounts of time in the country, as we recognise that local understanding is critical. 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.’’ it says in a statement.
Meta says it is also prioritising the safety of people on our service especially during elections through the guidance of its Community Standards that define what is and isn’t allowed on our service in order to keep people safe, while also protecting free expression. The company has made massive investments on safety and security with more than 40,000 people working on these issues – and spent approximately $5 billion on safety and security in 2021 alone. It is also decreasing the risk of problematic content going viral in Kenya and potentially inciting violence or hatred ahead of or during the election by temporarily reducing the distribution of content from individuals who have repeatedly or severely violated its policies so 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% reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages on WhatsApp.’’ it says.
Meta is also taking aggressive steps to fight the spread of misinformation on its services in Kenya, by removing misinformation which could lead to imminent violence or physical harm and working with our fact-checking partners in Kenya (AFP, Africa Check and PesaCheck) – to review and rate potentially false content on our platforms, label it, and place it lower in its feed, so fewer people see it. ‘’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 scrutinised speech there is. ‘’
In March this year, Meta also announced that anyone seeking to run political ads on Facebook and Instagram in Kenya will now be required to prove their identity and that they reside in the country. These ads are labelled with a disclaimer, so you can see who paid for them and stored them in Meta’s public Ads Library for seven years, so that everyone can see what ads are running, what types of people saw them and how much was spent. ‘’We also offer controls so that people in Kenya can choose not to see any of these political ads which run with a disclaimer,‘’ it says.
The company says it is also fighting voter interference through its specialised teams that are working to stop coordinated inauthentic behaviour where sophisticated networks of Pages, Groups and accounts are used to try and manipulate public debate.
‘’Since 2017, we have removed over 150 networks around the world for coordinated inauthentic behaviour including ahead of major elections around the world. We have tripled the number of people who work on security and safety issues overall to more than 40,000, including security experts, AI and machine learning engineers, and content reviewers.’’ Meta says.
Another undertaking Meta is working on is promoting civic engagement as part of its elections integrity work as it wants Kenyans to have accurate information about how and when to vote through its platforms. The company will have an “I Voted” sticker on Instagram in Kenya and on the day of the election, through its elections day reminder, remind Kenyans that it’s time to vote with a notification on top of their Facebook News Feed. It is also supporting digital literacy in Kenya through partnerships in programs such as “My Digital World” to improve digital and media literacy and raise awareness amongst the youth, teachers, parents, guardians on topics such as online safety, privacy, digital citizenship, news and media literacy delivered through live instructor-led and in-person/hybrid sessions.