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Facebook wants Africa to help fight fake news

Facebook wants Africa to help fight fake news

After launching its third-party fact checking initiative in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, Facebook is looking to rope in more African countries in its bid to combat fake news.

In Nairobi recently, Facebook representatives explained how the third-party fact check would work with partners such as Africa Check, AFP and PesaCheck.

Facebook in the process of partnering fact check services provider, Dubawa in Nigeria and will partner with more organisations through the Poynter programme focused on skills and certification for fact checkers.

According to the social network's initiative, stories that are offensive to the public (such as child pornography) would be instantly removed. However, stories that do not contravene the rules of Facebook, but are deemed to feature 'unfavourable information' would be downgraded. This includes posts that offer monetary rewards or incentivises users to take an action like share or comment.

"This is the best way to improve speed and promote the authenticity of our platform," said Jocelyn Muhutu-Remy, strategic partner manager for Sub Saharan Africa at Facebook.

Once news is flagged as 'fake' and confirmed as such by third-party checkers, its virality is reduced to 80%.

Muhutu-Remy said Facebook is working to increase the percentage and would be adding additional penalties for repeat offenders.

Currently, the fact check initiative covers links, images and video but not personal posts.

Indigenous African languages can be covered by the local third-party partners, but Facebook would work to include popular languages in the future, Muhutu-Remy added.

The global fake news phenomenon has not spared Africa.

According to the Africa Cyber Security Report 2017 fake news has emerged as a critical influence within cyber security.

"In 2017, our media platforms were overwhelmed by rogue politics and misinformation and dubious claims," the report said. It added that the audience might not be equipped to separate quality information from false information.

"It is paramount that government and social media owners lay down stringent measures to clamp down on fake news," it urged.

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