2019 general elections: How Facebook is helping to curb ‘fake news’

Every four years Nigerians go to the polls to elect new leaders at state and federal levels.

When the country returned to democratic rule in 1999, technology played a minimal role in galvanizing the electorate to the polls.

But in the last eight years, the rise of social media has given Nigerian politicians a vast platform to sell their political manifestos and programmes; while using the same medium to “expose the incompetence” of their opponents.

Sadly, these social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instangram, blogs etc – have also been used to spread hate, misinformation and sometimes outright falsehood which tend to gain traction with gullible members of the voting public.

Welcome to the era of FAKE NEWS!

The 2016 U.S presidential elections showed the damage fake news can wreck on any country’s political process. Many experts – including the U.S Intelligence community – point at Russian hackers for using disinformation and fake news to sway votes in a particular direction.

The main platform used for these actions is FACEBOOK.

Why always Facebook?

As the largest social media service in nearly every big country, Facebook has become a means for politicians and their adversaries to distribute fake news and other propaganda.

Buying Facebook ads can widen the audience for such material, but some of those influence efforts may violate election rules and the company’s policies.

Facbook and the 2019 general elections

As Nigeria’s 2019 general elections draws nearer, Facebook, the popular online social media and social networking service, says it has implemented new advertising rules to tackle false news, fake accounts and hate speech on its platform.

It says this initiative – political advertising rules and tools – will help in curbing election interference.

“Only advertisers located in the country would be able to run electoral ads,’’  says Katie Harbath, Facebook’s Director of Global Politics and Outreach.

Under pressure from authorities around the world, Facebook last year introduced several initiatives to increase oversight of political ads.

Highlighting Facebook’s commitment to fighting the spread of false news and hate speech on the platform, Akua Gyekye, Public Policy Head, Anglophone, West Africa said that Facebook cared about Nigeria.

“Due to the care, Facebook is investing in the country.

“Facebook’s mission is clear; to give people the power to build communities and bring the world closer together.

“Our mission in Nigeria is no different – we understand the importance of being local in a global world and want to have a positive long-term impact.

“In addition, we want to support people who want to be more civically engaged and connect with issues they care about not just on Election Day, but every day,” she said.

Gyekye also stressed the need for people to be vigilant, especially during the election period, and to report any content that they feel might be in contravention of Facebook’s Community Standards.