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Facebook has expressed their unflinching commitment to making their social media platforms - Facebook and Instagram - places where people feel safe, can access accurate and transparent information and, most importantly make their voices heard, especially during elections in Africa.

This was according to Public Policy Manager in charge of Africa Elections Akua as part of the discussion “Supporting Elections across Africa” at a virtual media round-table event organized by the Facebook Africa Team in Accra.

Gyekye mentioned combating misinformation and false news, boosting digital literacy and helping people spot false news, making political ads more transparent , promoting civic engagements, keeping people safe and partnering with NGOs and civil society group as some key measures put in place by Facebook in protecting Africa’s election integrity.

Gyekye also said that, to ensure that people on the African continent have access to accurate information on Facebook and Instagram during elections, Facebook’s updated policies allow them to remove misinformation which could lead to imminent violence or physical harm. They can also remove misinformation which could prevent people from voting, such as false news related to the dates, location, time and voting methods.

“Over the past year Facebook has expanded its work with independent fact-checking organisations across Africa to review and rate the accuracy of content shared on Facebook and Instagram. We work with organisations such as Dubawa, Africa Check, Pesa Check, AFP, Congo Check and France 24 - all of which are certified by the International Fact Checking Network. The program now covers 18 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and also supports local languages such as Swahili, Wolof, Igbo, Yoruba, Zulu and Setswana,”she said.

Explaining the efforts made to promote ad transparency on Facebook, Gyekye noted that since launching its political ads transparency tool in 2019, which has been expanded to cover a number of countries across Sub-Saharan Africa , users who want to run ads about elections or politics are encouraged to go through a verification process to prove who they are and that they live in the country they are targeting. She added that and in a growing number of countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, they have made this process mandatory.

“We run additional checks to ensure compliance with our policies, and every political ad is labeled with a “paid by” disclaimer so you can see who paid for them. We also store all political ads in our Ads Library so that everyone can see what ads are running, who saw the ads and how much was spent. These changes mean that political advertising on Facebook and Instagram is now more transparent than other forms of election campaigning such as billboards, newspaper ads, direct mail, leaflets or targeted emails,” she emphasised..

Aside from having fruitful engagements with the Electoral Commissions and Civil Society Organizations based in countries including Ghana. Ivory Coast and Guinea on how Facebook can be a positive tool for civic engagement, and the steps they can take to stay safe while using platforms, she further explained that Facebook has also pioneered the use of artificial intelligence to find and remove harmful content more quickly.

She said between April and June of this year, Facebook removed over 15 million pieces of graphic and violent content globally, detecting over 99% proactively, before anyone had to report it.

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