Meta today shared an update on its ongoing work to help ensure a safe and secure General Election in Kenya on August 9th. Over the past year, a specialist team of local experts have been working closely with election authorities and trusted partners, and a dedicated Kenyan Elections Operation Centre activated as part of its ongoing work in supporting major elections around the world. Meta has also rolled out and launched a range of policies and products aimed at increasing transparency in political advertising, fighting voter interference, promoting civic engagement and increasing digital literacy.
Commenting, Meta Director of Public Policy East and Horn of Africa Mercy Ndegwa said: “As our platforms continue to play an important role in civic discussions around the world, including here in Kenya, we know we have an important responsibility especially during times of elections. Using lessons from the past, and input from a range of experts, including dedicated and local teams within Meta, we’ve made substantial investments to help take aggressive steps in fighting abuse across our platforms, whilst rolling out policies and products to help ensure a safe and secure General Election.”
Meta’s investments and work around the Kenya General Elections includes:
Removing Harmful Content to Keep Users Safe – In order to quickly identify and remove content that violates its Community Standards, Meta uses a combination of artificial intelligence, human review and user reports. Quadrupling the size of its global team focused on safety and security to more than 40,000 people and hiring more content reviewers, including in Swahili, in the six months leading up to April 30, 2022, Meta took action on more than 37,000 pieces of content for violating its Hate Speech policies on Facebook and Instagram in Kenya. During that same period, Meta also took action on more than 42,000 pieces of content that violated its Violence & Incitement policies.
Protecting Female Public Figures and Human Rights Defenders – Informed by local challenges around increased abuse against female public figures, Meta formed a working group for the protection of female public figures during the Kenya elections. Partnering with local civil society organisations such as Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA), Pollicy and UN Women, Meta has trained women members of Parliament, aspirants and human rights defenders to utilise its safety tools and resources to ensure a safer experience across its platforms.
Reducing Problematic Content Across Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger – To reduce misinformation and lower the risk of problematic content in Kenya ahead of and during the elections, Meta is temporarily reducing the distribution of content across Facebook and Instagram from those who have repeatedly or severely violated its policies. In 2021 Meta also announced new rules for WhatsApp including reducing the number of people users can send a highly forwarded WhatsApp message to, to just one chat at a time. Since then, Meta has seen a 70% drop in the number of highly forwarded messages on WhatsApp. Meta has also introduced this forward limit on Messenger, so messages can only be forwarded to five people or groups at a time.
Combating Misinformation and False News – As part of its elections work, Meta removes the most serious kinds of misinformation from Facebook and Instagram, such as content that is intended to suppress voting or could contribute to imminent violence or physical harm. During the Kenyan elections, based on guidance from local partners, this will specifically include false claims that people with weapons are guarding polling stations, false claims that polling stations have been damaged and photos and videos shared out of context depicting ballot-stuffing or violence. Additionally through its third-party fact-checking programme, and for content that doesn’t violate these particular policies, Meta has partnered with independent third-party fact-checkers in Kenya — AFP, Pesa Check and Africa Check, who review content in both English and Swahili. When a piece of content is reviewed and rated as false, Meta reduces its distribution and adds a warning label with additional information.
Supporting Digital Literacy in Kenya – Working with local partners to improve digital and media literacy in Kenya, Meta has launched programs like My Digital World and partnered with iEARN Kenya to raise awareness amongst youth, teachers, parents and guardians on topics such as online safety, privacy, digital citizenship, news and media literacy. Meta is also working with UNESCO, through the EU-funded project on Social Media for Peace in Kenya with this programme aimed at addressing concerns around the use of digital communication tools as platforms to spread harmful content. In the lead up to, and during the elections Meta has also rolled out a radio campaign in multiple local languages including Luo, Kalenjin, Kikuyu, Swahili and English, focused on educating listeners on how to spot hate speech and misinformation, and what actions to take.
Making Political Advertising More Transparent – Meta’s Ad Transparency tools help people understand who’s behind the political ads they see on Facebook and Instagram. Advertisers who want to run political ads in Kenya must undergo a verification process to verify their identity and that they live in the country, with additional checks run to ensure their compliance with Meta’s policies. All political ads must be labelled with a “Paid for by” disclaimer to show who’s behind it, with these also included in the Ads Library so everyone can see what ads are running, information about targeting and find out how much money was spent.
Promoting Civic Engagement – Helping to build informed and engaged communities is central to our work around elections. In Kenya, we’ll have an “I Voted” sticker on Instagram, and launching on 9th August, Election Day, we’ll remind people in the country that it’s time to vote with a notification on top of their Facebook Feed as well.