After successfully pioneering its anti-fake news project in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon and Senegal, Facebook says it has expanded its Third-Party Fact-Checking Programme to 10 additional African countries.
Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy in Africa, said in a statement that the global media outfit has partnered with Agence France-Presse (AFP), France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa to help reduce the spread of misinformation and assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook.
“Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP.
“Other countries including Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP; Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.
“Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals we use to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review,” he said.
Mr Boakye noted that local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos.
He said that if one of their fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook would show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.
“The expansion of third-party fact-checking now covering 15 countries in a little over a year shows a firsthand commitment and dedication to the continent on our part.
“Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously.
“We know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue,” he said.
He said that third-party fact-checking alone was not the solution but was one of many initiatives and programmes the company was investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook.
Mr Boakye noted that while they had made great progress, the company would keep investing to ensure Facebook remained a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.
Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director, said that the company was delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook.
“We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.
Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor at Pesa Check, who would provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English, added that social networks like Facebook had changed how Africans consume the news.
“Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures,” he said.
He noted that the project would help them dramatically expand fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm.
Mugendi said that the project would also help them understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drove the spread of false information in Africa.
Caroline Anipah, Dubawa Programme Officer, said that the company was excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation had become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration.
“Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability,” Ms Anipah said.
Derek Thomson, Editor-in-Chief of France 24 Observers, said that African users were constantly sending questionable images and messages they received via social media to them to confirm its authenticity.
He noted that it was their responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that was circulating and get the truth back out there.
“Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place,” Mr Thomson said.