Facebook is preparing parties and users for South Africa’s 2019 elections

facebook south africa elections preparing

We’re little over two weeks away from casting our ballots, and Facebook is getting ready for South Africa’s 2019 National Elections.

The social network on Thursday explained how it aims to “protect the integrity of democracy on its platforms during elections”, “reduce the spread of misinformation” and “support civic engagement on its platform”.

This includes educating the public about dodgy news, improving UI elements within its web and app interfaces, and help political parties secure their pages.

Emilar Gandhi, Facebook’s public policy lead for the SADC region, noted that the company has “listened closely to the concerns of South Africa’s political parties, civil society organisations, regulators, electoral commission and the public to anticipate challenges across our platform during the elections.”

“This is something we have been working hard on since 2018 and have made significant investments in helping Facebook be a place where people feel safe, can access accurate information and make their voices heard in South Africa,” she added.

Overall, the company’s acutely intent on preserving the country’s “election integrity” on its platform.

Facebook’s civil engagement plans include tweaking the social network’s UI specifically for South African voters.

Facebook is intent on preserving South Africa’s ‘election integrity’ on its platform

Users can report posts that “contain incorrect election information, encourage violence or otherwise violate our Community Standards” in the run up to elections. Additionally, the company’s also prompting users with “voting day reminders” which will let users search for polling info and share their voting photographs. (But not at the booth, because those are illegal.)

Political parties are also being educated about the importance of securing their accounts on the platform.

“In partnership with the electoral commission, in the lead up to elections we have trained 48 major political parties in understanding the platform and tools at their disposal, with a specific focus on best practice for civic engagement, including how to turn on two-factor authentication and avoid common threats online,” Facebook added.

The social network’s also taking action against “impersonation” accounts.

“Thanks to recent advancements in our detection technology, we have become much more effective at identifying and deactivating these accounts and continue to take proactive measures,” it explained.

Facebook’s educating political parties on understanding how best to secure their accounts

Finally, it hopes to suppress fake news on its platform with the help of its partner fact-checking agency AfricaCheck.

“When content is found to be false, we reduce its distribution in News Feed so fewer people see it, and also show related articles from fact-checkers featuring factual information as to why a story is deemed false for more context, whilst notifying users if a story they share is rated as false,” Facebook added.

Social media — Facebook and other services — is set to play a big part in South Africa’s 2019 National Elections, set to take place on 8 May.

Feature image: Facebook

Andy Walker
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