Misinformation and disinformation are one of major downsides of the technological age. Expose’s such as “the great hack” have shown how vulnerable social media platforms have made users and that tampered information cascades causing very real drawbacks to the global landscape in real life. Extending from breaches of personal information to cross-border meddling in national elections.
Fact checking is therefore needed to combat this menace and ‘protect’ users from perception changing information and content. Facebook is the world’s largest social media site and therefore the largest culprit in the dissemination of fake news.
Due to the backlash from continued audience exposure, the platform has been partnering with organisations to help them remove fake accounts, give people more context about what they’re reading or viewing and reduce the spread of false news. It reportedly has approx. 27 partners in 17 countries aiding in the effort.
One such partner is Africa Check a non-partisan organisation that exists to promote accuracy and honesty in public debate and the media in Africa. In a joint statement Africa Check and Facebook announced that more African languages will be covered by the fact-checking effort. These will include South Africa’s: Afrikaans, Zulu, Setswana, Sotho, Northern Sotho and Southern Ndebele; East Africa’s Swahili; Nigeria’s Yoruba; and Wolof, native to Senegal.
The additional languages are important for providing context for fact checkers who in accurately translating a flagged post in any of these local languages can then effectively and correctly act upon them. Under the fact-checking program, stories identified as false, are demoted in the news feed and are tagged with warnings when users attempt to post and share them. Thus structuring toxic content to be viewed less; limiting its penetration.
Noko Makgato, executive director of Africa Check, told CNN that their task is to, “Review (flagged) content, provide a rating and an informative article. The system allows us to rate content based on a range of options from ‘true’ to ‘mixture (of true and false),’ ‘satire,’ ‘opinion’ and ‘false.”
Kojo Boakye, Facebook’s head of public policy for Africa, said in a statement that the social media platform will continue to invest in efforts to curb the spread of false news.
“We continue to make significant investments in our efforts to fight the spread of false news on our platform, whilst building supportive, safe, informed and inclusive communities,” Boakye said.
“Our third-party fact-checking program is just one of many ways we are doing this, and with the expansion of local language coverage, this will help in further improving the quality of information people see on Facebook,” he added.
Although the number of additional languages are a mere drop in the ocean of natively spoken African languages they are still a step closer to culling fake news from News Feeds.
One can still however make a very strong case towards a mass exit from the platform for their lack of outrage and continued nonchalance towards user exposure and the plunder of user data over the past decade.