Social media giant, Facebook has disclosed that it is planning to spread its fact-checking program across Africa in the coming months.
The essence of the fact-checking program, which it has started in Kenya, is to flag fake news stories with the help of users and third party fact checkers and to improve the quality of news people find on its platform..
“We will work with independent fact-checking organization Africa Check along with the French news agency AFP to assess news accuracy and stem the flood of misinformation,” it said, emphasizing that though the program will apply only to Kenya for now—but will soon be spread to other African countries as well.
Quartz reports that the move to roll out these tools to combat fake news is fitting given the popularity of Facebook products in Africa. “If a story is identified as false, Facebook will demote them in the news feed and will warn users who try to post those stories. As part of the review and rating process, the company will also share related pieces written by the fact-checking partners immediately below the story in the news feed,” the report revealed.
The Quartz report also advised Facebook that WhatsApp, owned by Facebook is the real problem as it is easily the most popular platform across Africa, while Facebook Messenger was mostly used across North Africa, Somalia, and Eritrea.
“Yet by focusing on Facebook’s newsfeed and not on WhatsApp in Africa, the social networking company is likely passing over a crucial opportunity to deal with what has become a top source of misinformation that cannot be measured or questioned publicly,” Quartz warned.
This is especially true of Kenya, where WhatsApp was used as a conduit to drive the fake news cycle during a highly-contested election last year. Authorities noted 21 hate-mongering WhatsApp groups. At the time, the tech giant was forced to place adverts in local newspapers and radio stations and roll out an education tool providing tips on spotting false stories. .
WhatsApp has been key to driving internet uptake in Africa. For example, in Zimbabwe the app was responsible for about half of all internet data last year. Both Facebook and WhatsApp’s over-the-top services are often blamed by local mobile network operators for a decline in mobile revenue growth.