Ahead of Ethiopia’s national elections on 5th June 2021, Facebook has adopted measures to keep users safe against misinformation and prevent abuse of its platform.
Facebook is investing in measures that include partnerships and public awareness campaigns to ensure users in Ethiopia are protected from abuse and kept safe in the platform. They include:
Strict enforcement of the Community Standards to keep people Safe
We are strictly enforcing our Community Standards to guard against incidences of inciting violence, hate speech and harassment and we invite Ethiopians to make use of our reporting tools to flag any incidences that violate our rules. We’ve expanded the teams working on safety and security in Ethiopia with more systems engineers, security experts and content reviewers who include native language speakers in Amharic, Oromo, Tigrinya and Somali among other local languages.
Combating Misinformation and false news
Through AI we are able to quickly detect and remove content which could lead to imminent violence or physical harm, threaten public or personal safety or prevent people from voting. We’ve partnered with independent fact-checkers, including Pesa Check and AFP in Ethiopia to review and rate the accuracy of content shared on our platform flagging false content. We’ve also introduced an Image Context reshare product in Ethiopia to warn of images taken out of context in order to deceive, abuse or cause harm.
Supporting Digital literacy
“A media literacy campaign that we rolled out last year is helping educate and inform Ethiopians about detecting and flagging potential false news. Called ‘Three Questions To Help Stamp Out False News’ we developed a series of creative adverts, with a link out to a dedicated website, www.stampoutfalsenews.com. From December 2020 -January 2021 we also ran an Out Of Home advertising campaign in the form of billboards across 43 locations in Addis Ababa, the first of its kind across Africa, which focused on informing and educating people on how to stay safe online and use social media responsibly.
“We’ve decreased the risk of problematic content going viral in Ethiopia 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 our policies – whether or not those individuals are located in the country – so fewer people see it. We are also helping slow the spread of viral misinformation and harmful content through mass-messaging limits that we;ve introduced on WhatsApp and Messenger.”
Tackling hate speech
“We have a zero-tolerance approach towards hate speech and continue to invest heavily in teams and technology to combat hate on our services. Through AI we are able to recognize posts in Ethiopia that we suspect may contain hate speech, so we can reduce their distribution while they undergo review by our Community Operations team, so fewer people see them while we investigate. We’ve expanded this to cover new words and phrases associated with hate speech in Ethiopia while also revising and updating Ethiopia-specific prohibited words and phrases.”
Partnerships with NGOs and Civil Society
“We continue to engage with Civil Society Organisations in Ethiopia and in the Diaspora, and have created dedicated programmes and partnerships focused on better understanding the challenges on our platform and how we can tackle them. We have also held a series of Roundtables with Ethiopia’s diaspora, engaging with various communities to better understand some of the key challenges being faced through our platforms.”
Transparency in political advertising
“We’ve introduced tools that are designed to ensure political discussion and debate, as well as political advertising in Ethiopia are done in a transparent atmosphere in the run-up to the elections. In March this year, we made these political ads transparency tools mandatory in Ethiopia. As a result, anybody who wants to run political ads in Ethiopia must now go through a verification process to prove who they are and that they live in Ethiopia. We then run additional checks to ensure compliance with our policies. Political ads in Ethiopia will be labelled with a “paid by” disclaimer, so you can see who paid for them. We also put political ads that run in Ethiopia in our Ads Library so that everyone can see what ads are running, what types of people saw them and how much was spent. This fully searchable archive will store these ads for seven years”.
“In addition to providing more transparency, earlier this year we also announced that we are rolling out new controls so that people can choose to see fewer social issues, electoral, and political ads. When people use these controls, they’ll no longer see ads that run with a “Paid for by” disclaimer. These changes mean that political advertising on Facebook and Instagram is now more transparent than other forms of election campaigning, whether that’s billboards, newspaper ads, direct mail, leaflets or targeted emails.”
Commenting on the company’s efforts, Ndegwa, Facebook Head of Public Policy for East and Horn of Africa said, “Keeping people on Facebook and Instagram safe is always our priority. As Facebook we are excited with our investments in Ethiopia and we are keen to continue working with Ethiopians to ensure their safety on our platform and that the platform is not misused in any way to misinform or mislead them.”