Social media companies are taking a keen interest in the forthcoming general elections in Kenya. The companies are putting in place a number of strategies to curb misinformation, hate speech and the spread of fake news on its platform.
Last week, video sharing app TikTok said that it’s working with various stakeholders including the government to ensure that “information is disseminated responsibly. “ Among the initiatives the platform announced is an Elections Hub which is integrated within the app to help spread factual and authoritative information about the general election.
Meta is now joining in and today it shared an update on its ongoing work to help ensure a safe and secure General Election in Kenya on August 9th.
Over the past year, Meta says a specialist team of local experts have been working closely with election authorities and trusted partners, and a dedicated Kenyan Elections Operation Centre activated as part of its ongoing work in supporting major elections around the world. Meta 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 our platforms continue to play an important role in civic discussions around the world, including here in Kenya, we know we have an important responsibility especially during times of elections. 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.” Meta Director of Public Policy East and Horn of Africa Mercy Ndegwa said.
Meta’s investments and work around the Kenya General Elections includes removing harmful content to keep users on the platform safe, Protecting female public figures and human rights defenders, and reducing problematic content across Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger
Meta says it’s also combating misinformation and false news as part of its elections work. The company says it 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. ”During the Kenyan elections, based on guidance from local partners, this will specifically include false claims that people with weapons are guarding polling stations, false claims that polling stations have been damaged and photos and videos shared out of context depicting ballot-stuffing or violence.”
Additionally, through its third-party fact-checking programme, and for content that doesn’t violate these particular policies, Meta has partnered with independent third-party fact-checkers in Kenya — AFP, Pesa Check and Africa Check, who review content in both English and Swahili. When a piece of content is reviewed and rated as false, Meta reduces its distribution and adds a warning label with additional information.
Meta is also working with local partners to improve digital and media literacy in Kenya and has launched programs like My Digital World and partnered with iEARN Kenya to raise awareness amongst youth, teachers, parents and guardians on topics such as online safety, privacy, digital citizenship, news and media literacy. It is also working with UNESCO, through the EU-funded project on Social Media for Peace in Kenya with this programme aimed at addressing concerns around the use of digital communication tools as platforms to spread harmful content. In the lead up to, and during the elections Meta has also rolled out a radio campaign in multiple local languages including Luo, Kalenjin, Kikuyu, Swahili and English, focused on educating listeners on how to spot hate speech and misinformation, and what actions to take.
Other initiatives include ad Transparency tools to help people understand who’s behind the political ads they see on Facebook and Instagram and promoting civic engagement.
”Helping to build informed and engaged communities is central to our work around elections. In Kenya, we’ll have an “I Voted” sticker on Instagram, and launching on 9th August, Election Day, we’ll remind people in the country that it’s time to vote with a notification on top of their Facebook Feed as well.” Meta said in a statement.